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Monday, September 1, 2014

Lottie Almonte Leaves Murry Bergtraum HS In Shame

Another Principal from Hell is given a promotion, raise, or both. The DOE attacks good principals and supports the bad ones. Goodbye, Lottie.

Betsy Combier

Murry Bergtraum HS principal leaves following Post report


Murry Bergtraum HS

Two years after The Post first exposed horrible conditions and mismanagement at Murry Bergtraum HS for Business Careers, its principal has left the building.
Lottie Almonte, who has presided over the F-rated downtown school since 2012, wrote in a farewell email that she’s “taken on a new challenge in our city to support students and families in different communities.”
Almonte, who made $144,777 last year, will become a city adult-school principal.
Bergtraum, just two blocks from City Hall, has weathered a slew of scandals in the last two years.
The school’s “blended learning” program, launched by Almonte, let hundreds of students take online coursesat home in place of classes they failed or didn’t want to attend, prompting a state Education Department investigation.
The state found the school failed to provide required services for special-ed students. Teachers reported constant threats and assaults by out-of-control kids during Almonte’s tenure. Dozens of staffers fled.
“The memories of our days together and all of our work at Murry Bergtraum HS will forever resonate in my life,” Almonte wrote to staff. “I am confident that (Bergtraum) will become the flagship high school that it once was.”
The school had a 51.2 percent graduation rate in 2013.
“Teachers feel relieved,” said John Elfrank-Dana, a teacher and union chapter leader, referring to Almonte’s departure. “The school was turned into a nightmare for the staff and students, and the Post was there to shed light on it.”

‘Fail factory’ teacher churns through 475 students per year

Alexis Pajares (left) teaches 475 students this semester under principal Lottie
Almonte's 'blended' online programs
On paper, he’s a super-teacher. To critics, he’s the poster child for academic fraud in New York City.
Alexis Pajares “teaches” 475 students at Manhattan’s Murry Bergtraum HS for Business Careers in all grades and all disciplines — including algebra, biology, chemistry, Chinese, earth science, economics, English, government, health, history, law and Spanish.

Students failing any of those subjects get dumped on Pajares, who signs them up for an online course they can do in a computer lab or at home. Students can snag full credit without attending class.
“There’s little to no traditional instruction going on, which makes the whole thing a farce,” said history teacher and union chapter leader John Elfrank-Dana. “It’s a credit-recovery trick, in most cases, to move kids along and get them out.”

Principal Lottie Almonte started the program last year, appointing Pajares the “blended learning” teacher. But staffers charge that it violates state rules that online programs must include “substantive interaction” with a teacher certified in the subject. Pajares is certified only in social studies.
Elfrank-Dana, citing complaints from teachers and students, said he has repeatedly asked Almonte to explain the program but got no response.

Two blocks from City Hall, “F”-rated Murry Bergtraum has struggled in recent years as a “dumping ground” for overage or held-back students who lack credits. The school had only a 51.2 percent graduation rate last year.

Almonte referred questions to the Department of Education. A spokesman admitted Pajares doesn’t teach all 475 kids, but “is running the blended learning program,” that other certified teachers “support students” and students are required to be in classes with traditional instruction.
Teachers and guidance counselors dispute those claims. Schedules show students in blended learning without an equivalent class.

“You don’t learn a lot,” said a 21-year-old senior — a recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic — who takes an online chemistry course.

“We just sit down, sign on to the program and that’s it,” he said.

He watches a video of a teacher giving a lesson, then has to answer questions in a quiz. If he doesn’t know the answer, he watches the video again — or uses Google. He takes notes, but “nobody checks our notes.”

Another senior took blended learning English after failing the class in her junior year.
“There’s no attendance. You just log on when you feel like it,” she said.
The online course, which she did at home, took three weeks — while a classroom semester lasts 4¹/₂ months. She said she got no feedback on the one essay she was required to write and doesn’t know who grades it.

Other kids take the online classes purely as a convenience — instead of a regular class that starts early and requires a lot more work.

A math teacher said the program is flawed because kids take tests at home — not under school supervision — raising the possibility of cheating.

Staffers have heard that some students pay friends $80 to $100 to take the online exams for them.
Another math teacher had a student who “sat there doing nothing all semester,” the teacher said. “He told me, ‘I don’t have to do any work in your class. I can take blended learning.’ ”
After flunking out, the kid scored 82 online.

But students who pass the online courses stumble in subsequent classes. “I have not seen any kid who can handle material at the next level after blended learning,” the teacher said.

Fidgety: A Day in the Life of an ATR

I have known this wonderful, caring teacher for several years, and can vouch for the fact that she is everything a GREAT teacher could and should be. I love and respect her.

She does NOT deserve to be in the ATR pool.

Shame on the UFT.

Betsy Combier

September 1, 2014

A Day in the Life of an ATR...


After 20 years of teaching in the NYC schools, I have spent the last three years rotating on a weekly basis to and from 52 different school locations.  While most professionals change jobs an average of 3 times at most in a lifetime, an ‘ATR’, aka a teacher belonging to the ‘Absent Teacher Reserve’, begins a new job every Monday morning.  Yes, a new job, meaning new school, new colleagues, new principals, and a brand new set of rules every Monday morning.  
Oh, you don’t know what an ATR is? I’m not surprised… It is scarcely mentioned in the UFT paper or discussed at UFT meetings. There are even tenured teachers who know nothing about Absent Teacher Reserve thanks to the UFT who tries to keep it under wraps. The ATR status, created by the Department of Education/ and the Useless United Federation of Teachers, has been purposely destroying careers of tenured teachers for quite some time now, right under the nose of its’ very own employees. 
ATRs are hard working, tenured and experienced professionals who are often 50+ years in age and high on the salary ladder.  It is no wonder that these highly qualified teachers are unwanted by principals and their limited budgets… A principal can easily fill 2 positions for the price of one ATR. ATRs have lost their permanent position in their school building due to either a school closing, or a failed attempt to have them terminated through false or trumped up allegations by their administrator. Regardless of an arbitrator’s decision to have these teachers return to their classroom through 3020a, the Department of Education has single handedly deemed them unfit and ineligible to teach, and REFUSES to play fair and place them back in their classrooms.
 The DOE lies when they say that the ATRs are incompetent and don’t want to work. They do want to work, ARE working and have been working, but are treated as unwanted visitors and/or substitute teachers, (not their choice) and have been rotating from school to school on a weekly and often daily basis while the UFT turns the other way.

So, here it is… The life of an ATR…
While regular teachers have the same issue, I’m sure many ATRs will agree when I say that PARKING is one of the toughest issues facing an ATR who relies on their car to get to work. What makes it especially tough is that an ATR has no idea what their schedule will be on any given day. I have arrived 60-90 minutes early to an assignment just to procure a legal parking spot, one in which I won’t have to move during the day for alternate side parking. Unlike a regularly assigned teacher, I have no way of knowing in advance if I will have a lunch or prep period that coincides with my need to move my car.  In addition, most schools have a limited number of parking passes that are equally distributed to their teachers and rotated on a monthly basis.
Once entering a school building, I am asked to sign in and show my ID at the security desk.  In some schools, I must only show ID on Monday, but in some, I am asked to show ID every day of the week.  I am given a “visitor’s” sticker or “visitor’s” pass that I am required to wear around my neck, which I find degrading since I am not a visitor, I am an employee, (who are they kidding?) and directed to the main office, which is usually one flight up the stairs.
 It is in the main office that the tone for my day is set with a either a greeting, a casual groan, a dirty look, a few whispers, or most often, the complete denial of my existence.
When I am finally acknowledged it’s like this: “Oh the ”ATR” is here.” (My new name) “Oh you’re back”, or “What’s your file number?” I am often handed a school manual, which cites the individual rules of the school and asked to sign a paper stating that I received it.
“Here’s your time card and schedule.”  I am asked to “clock in”, although as a teacher, I am not required to. I do this as a protective measure so that a school cannot say that I wasn’t there, or that I was late.
My schedule is handed to me by *someone. (*school aide, secretary, or an assistant principal. It wouldn’t surprise me if a custodian handed me my schedule.) Your guess is as good as mine-- because in this ‘professional’ setting, no one bothers to introduce themself /selves unless asked to.  If there is no schedule prepared for me, I am either ignored, or asked to wait on a bench, or to wait in the teacher’s lounge, or some other remote location for an unspecified amount of time. When I actually get to the teacher’s lounge or wherever I am asked to wait, it is usually at that point when I am immediately paged to return to the office for my schedule.

From a professional point of view, do you think that it might be beneficial for a teacher to know what grade, type of class or subject they will be teaching for the next 8 hours? As a common branch teacher who is not certified in Special Education, one might think it would be important to know whether the students have IEPs, special needs or diversified schedules. The DOE thinks not. While the DOE is ridding Common Branch Licensed teachers from the Junior High and High Schools, they are sending CB licensed ATRs to fill those vacancies on a provisional basis. Does this make sense?

 I take a few seconds to look at the schedule I am given, and ask if there are any specific instructions pertaining to lunchtime transitions and dismissal procedures. (I ask because nine out of ten times I am left by myself to dismiss children as young as 5 to parents, uncles, cousins and guardians whom I am seeing for the first time. In which case, if I am informed early enough, I will pre-request assistance with dismissal.)

I must note that while in rotation from school to school, one learns quickly that no two schools are the same in any way, shape or form. This significant difference between schools makes the job of rotating so much more difficult. It is impossible to get familiar with the staff/master a routine/ learn the safety/fire drill code & the expectations of administration in 1 to 5 days…then run off to another school and learn another routine, etc. on the following Monday. If one is not familiar with the safety code of a school and is supposed to follow it, wouldn’t that be cause for concern? This lack of uniformity between schools is foreign and most surprising news for those who never leave the comfort of their appointed work place. Administration expects that because one is a  “teacher”, one automatically knows everything about schools and children- ALL of the schools and ALL of the children. Kind of the same ignorant way of thinking that the reformers have….if one sat in a classroom as a child, shouldn’t they be able to dictate what should be taught and how?  A school is a school isn’t it?  Umm, not exactly.
 NEWS FLASH! ---No two schools have the same rules, procedures or time schedules. Let’s look at some of the differences between schools that may throw off a tenured teacher, substitute teacher, visitor (even a teacher in rotation) who is entering the school for the first time…

Some schools have a half of a minute or two between periods, and some do not. (no time between periods translates to no time for a bathroom break for an ATR.)
Some schools have ‘extended’ day worked into their schedule and some have an additional complicated routines added on to their day either in the am or pm part of the day.
Some admins provide ATRs with a clear gridded schedule with periods, school hours and preps to follow. On the other hand, admins have handed me a barely legible scribbled ‘post it’ note with some classes written on it- that lacks a time schedule.
Individual schools have their own codes written on time schedules, such as PE, or G, or *&^%$ meaning gym and an ATR is left on their own to decipher these codes everyday.
The rest is on a ‘need to know’ basis and because I need to know, I have to ask…
“Where is the bathroom, teacher’s lounge, auditorium and lunchroom?”
“Is there a place where I can hang my coat?” It is quite burdensome to carry around a coat all day when moving from class to class each period.
“Do you have a teacher’s lounge, refrigerator, microwave, place to stay on a prep?”
 “Is there a bathroom key?” I am quite sure that I am never going to get a bathroom key, but I humor myself each time, and ask anyway. In response, Ms. Secretary looks at me like I have 5 heads and tells me that I need to catch a teacher either going in or coming out of the bathroom. I think to myself, “Is that like catching a bus?”  “We never give bathroom keys to subs,” says Ms. Secretary.
 Next question, classroom key…I ask for a classroom key and am directed to an unlocked key cabinet where several hundred keys hang in disarray.
 “The classroom door should be unlocked already, but if it’s not, come back down (which translates to, “Walk up 5 flights of stairs, check the door and if it’s locked, come back down for the key”)", says Ms. Secretary.  
Last but not least I ask, “Where do I pick up the kids?” I am often sent to the auditorium only to learn that the students are outside, have already been picked up by a cluster teacher, or in the lunchroom.
I get to the classroom and the door is locked. With hands full of schedules, attendance folders and lessons, coat, bag and lunch, I find an open door nearby and manage to juggle the phone to call the office and then must wait for a custodian to open the classroom door. With zero time to search the room for a lesson plan that may be nonexistent, I drop off my things and head down to ‘find’ my class. I enter into an auditorium filled to the brim with kids and wait till someone notices that I have no idea where I am. 
Then, I claim my students and I go off…into the abyss of this unfamiliar hallway with equally confused students to this mystery classroom in the insane world of the DOE.

Aside from the usual pettiness that most teachers engage in over coffee machines and water dispensers, cruel notes left on the refrigerator door and who sits where at the royal lunch table is the bubble of ignorance that these teachers and colleagues exist in…
Here are some of their actual comments:
You’re so lucky you don’t have to be observed!
The slave labor is here!
Why don’t you apply for a classroom position?
I had an ATR in my classroom once and he did nothing.
Aren’t you the rubber room people?
You get paid as much as we do, you should know what to do!
How can I get to be an ATR and do nothing all day?
I would give anything to not have to write lesson plans.
Are you a sub?
So, what is it exactly that you do?  The saddest part of is, is that these questions are not coming from young, newbie teachers. What’s an ATR?  I once told a teacher that the ATRs are really sent to observe the classroom teachers. That really made her day!

As a regular classroom teacher, I was required to leave a lesson plan or ‘sub folder’ in the room if I was going to be out for the day. Why is it then that nine times out of ten, there are no lesson plans in the room when I arrive?  As an ATR, I am always prepared with at least one comprehensive lesson plan for each grade of the school I am in, as I never know in advance what grade I will be sent to each day.  I may be required to go to a different grade each period, or be assigned to one class for the entire day. Yes, I am a teacher, but I am not a magician who can pull a complete day of lessons out of a hat at a moment’s notice.

As I begin my fourth year as an ATR, I am ridden with frustration and anxiety. Time and again, the articles in the paper fail to tell the truth, and the public continues to be misinformed about who we are. We are professionals who ARE WORKING and WANT TO CONTINUE WORKING and are being denied the privilege of working in the capacity where we can be most productive. Weekly Rotation denies us the continuity of knowing our students and colleagues and the productivity that results from daily interaction. Rather than utilize the enormous talent available in the ATR pool, our new chancellor has allowed the hiring of young and inexperienced teachers to fill the vast amount of open positions resulting from the expansion of Universal Pre-K and huge retirement incentives in the new contract. Why hire new teachers when you have hundreds of qualified ATRs already on payroll? We are tired of being named as the scapegoats for an already dysfunctional education system. Which leads me to the final question that has all of us wondering…
 Mr. Mulgrew, Where are you?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

UFT Gives Information on Appealing a Rating of "Ineffective"

A whole new process that may or may not work. No one knows....



Process for teachers to appeal an Ineffective rating

Process for teachers to appeal an Ineffective rating - chart

Two kinds of appeals

There are two different types of appeals in the new evaluation system: chancellor’s appeals and panel appeals. All teachers are entitled to a chancellor’s appeal. After talking to you and reviewing your forms and supporting documentation, the UFT will determine whether your case may be appropriate for a panel appeal.

Chancellor’s appeals

A hearing office from the DOE’s Office of Appeals and Review, the same office that hears U rating appeals, will hear your case. Unlike the U rating appeals process, which can drag on for months, the DOE hearing officer has 30 days to issue a decision in a chancellor’s appeal.

Panel appeals

The union can identify up to 13 percent of all Ineffective ratings each year to challenge on grounds of harassment or reasons not related to job performance.
These cases will be heard by a three-member panel comprised of a person selected by the DOE, a person selected by the UFT, and a neutral arbitrator.
Cases that the UFT selects for panel appeals may require a second meeting with your UFT intake advisor, and you will need to fill outadditional forms.
All returning teachers covered by the new evaluation system should receive their year-end rating for the 2013–14 school year when they return to school on Sept. 2, according to the Department of Education.
For those who receive a rating of Ineffective for the first time, there is a new process in place to appeal the rating. Regardless of the reason you may feel the rating is unfair, the first steps you should take are the same.
You need to be proactive and organized. You must submit the specific, detailed reasons for your appeal as well as all of the documents you plan to use to support your arguments. A UFT representative will guide you through the steps.
The UFT recommends that you attend one of the two informational meetings it is holding at union headquarters in September to give you an overview of the new appeals process [see box at right for dates].
In addition, if you receive a year-end rating of Ineffective, call your UFT borough office immediately to request an appointment with an intake advisor in order to file your appeal.

Common Core tests not a deciding factor

For this year and next, teachers rated Ineffective or Developing based on state Common Core tests in English language arts and math in Grades 3 to 8 will have their ratings recalculated without the Common Core tests, according to changes to the evaluation system set forth in a law passed by the state Legislature in June. Those recalculated scores will be used in all decisions regarding termination and 3020a charges, retention and the granting or denial of tenure.
The legislation creating this safety net, which was signed by the governor, followed widespread criticism of the tests themselves and a botched implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards by the State Education Department.
In the recalculation of these teachers’ final ratings, the DOE will use other student assessments and exclude the Grade 3-8 Common Core tests. If a teacher’s local and state measures of student learning are both based on these Common Core tests, then observations and other measures of teacher effectiveness would make up 100 percent of the evaluation.

UFT informational meetings in September

The UFT will be holding informational meetings on Sept. 3 and again on Sept. 6 for teachers who received a final rating of Ineffective to inform them of the appeals process and what steps they need to take.
Both meetings will be held at UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway in Manhattan from 4 to 6 p.m. Pre-registration is required. You can register onlinefrom the event listings on the UFT websitecalendar.
The adviser will email you the necessary forms,worksheets and instructions prior to your appointment. Fill out all the forms you receive electronically and bring a hard copy of your completed forms and all your documentation with you to your appointment. The UFT has posted online at achecklist of materials you should gather in preparation for your appeal. That will give you a good idea of the type of documents you should bring to your appointment.
At your appointment, your intake advisor will review your forms and documentation for completeness, objectivity and clarity. The intake advisor will let you know if you are missing any documents or if you need to flesh out information on your form.
The UFT must by Nov. 15 this year submit electronically to the DOE the forms and accompanying documentation for all teachers filing appeals. (Two weeks earlier, on Nov. 1, the union has to submit to the DOE a list of the cases that it intends to pursue as panel appeals.)
The DOE will begin holding its appeals hearings in late December or early January.
If you receive an Ineffective rating for the 2013–14 school year, you will be given a Teacher Improvement Plan this school year designed to pinpoint weaknesses and support you in addressing them. (Teachers rated Developing may also be given a Teacher Improvement Plan.) A trained Peer Validator, who is in most cases a fellow New York City public school teacher, will also observe you and review the fairness of your rating.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Is Campbell Brown a Bully?

I have a question: how does Campbell Brown have standing to bring a lawsuit against tenure for public school teachers/employees?

How many of her children attended public school in NYC?

Just askin'.

Betsy Combier
Campbell Brown

Law firm supporting New York Parents Union quits, parents blame bullying by Campbell Brown’s education reform group

In early June, a decision in the California court case Vergara v. California deemed the state’s teacher tenure laws to be unconstitutional because they deny children access to a quality education. The decision has sparked similar cases around the country. In New York, the parents group New York City Parents Union (NYCPU), headed by Mona Davids, filed the first of these lawsuits in early July. In Davids v. State of New York, et al., eleven students, all children of members of the New York City Parents Union, are plaintiffs. The complaint (pdf) asks the court to issue permanent injunctions against the New York statutes involving “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) layoff rules and dismissal rules for teachers found to be ineffective. UnlikeVergara, Davids does not go after tenure rules which protect teachers who have worked for a pre-specified period of time from being fired for non-educational reasons.
Mona Davids has been, and still is, involved in a variety of lawsuits challenging the funding of schools and the release of student and parent data to a private corporation among other issues and she has fought against lack of parental oversight in charter schools in New York. I spoke to Davids and NYCPU Vice-President Sam Pirozzolo at length this past week to prepare this piece.
Mona Davids
Mona Davids
According to Davids and Pirozzolo, the week before the lawsuit was filed, NYCPU was contacted by Campbell Brown, the former CNN anchor. Brown has left her journalism career to become a staunch and well-funded advocate of education reform. With Michelle Rhee leaving her position as CEO of StudentsFirst, Campbell, through her group Partnership for Educational Justice (PEJ), appears poised to take up Rhee’s torch and establish herself as the face of education reform. Her type of education reform echoes Rhee’s model with a strong focus on blaming teachers for poor performing schools and a disdain for teachers unions and teacher tenure laws, in particular.
When Brown contacted Davids and Pirozzolo, she told them she wanted to work with them and set up a meeting. On his way to the meeting Pirozzolo learned that Brown’s group had cancelled. They attempted to reschedule but soon learned that Brown was coming to New York City and seemed to have no interest in talking with them. Fearful that Brown was attempting to preempt their forthcoming lawsuit, they hurriedly found an attorney, Jonathan Tribiano, and filed their suit on the July 3rd. Pirozzolo paid the $250 filing fee out of his own pocket. He told me that they chose to file in Staten Island because they felt they would have a better chance of getting a sympathetic Republican judge than if they filed in Albany. Due to the hurried nature of their filing, they knew they would have to file an amended suit before too long.
Sam Pirozzolo
Sam Pirozzolo
After they filed, they heard once again from Campbell Brown who congratulated them as “brave parents” who were standing up for students and once again offering to help. Davids and Pirozzolo gladly accepted. However, Brown called them back a short time later and told them she didn’t have any money to support them. Instead, she offered to put them in touch with her attorney so that he could explain to them how bad their lawsuit was. Davids and Pirozzolo already knew their complaint needed to be improved and on July 24th, they filed an amended complaint.
Four days later Campbell filed her own lawsuit in Albany. In a tearful press conference, she said called the plaintiffs “incredibly brave”, saying she was “just proud to be holding [their] coats.”
On August 6th, Students Matter, the California group founded by millionaire David Welch which bankrolled the Vergara case, announced they would be supporting the plaintiffs in the Davids case. The legal representation would be taken over by the law firm Gibson Dunn with attorneys Randy Mastro, former Deputy Mayor of New York City, and Theodore Boutrous, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the Vergara suit, in charge.
The next day, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a motion asking that the court combine the cases in Staten Island due to their similarities. All parties agreed to this and next week, on September 3rd, there will be a hearing to formalize the consolidation.
After that, however, Davids and Pirozzolo told me “all hell broke loose.” Gibson Dunn attorney Mastro recently asked them to come to his office telling them he had “shocking news”. Mastro, they said, told them that Campbell Brown had contacted some of his other clients and those clients were now threatening to pull their business from his firm if they didn’t drop the Davids suit. In the meantime, their original attorney, Jonathan Tribiana had become “cagey” and wouldn’t answer their questions. Mastro assured them that there were plenty of other firms that would be willing to take on their case pro bono and that Gibson and Dunn would help them find someone.
Thursday night, less than an hour before I spoke with Davids and Pirozzolo, Gibson Dunn “fired” their clients. Because of this, they are currently without representation as they head into next Tuesday’s hearing. Students Matter, the California group bankrolling the lawsuit, is also pulling out.
Davids and Pirozzolo tell me that the players involved will not acknowledge any of this in public. The various players have said variously that Gibson Dunn was quitting their case because of a conflict of interest due to the other lawsuits that Davids is currently involved in or that it was because of “bad behavior” by Davids and Pirozzolo. None of the players are willing to go on the record to say that Campbell Brown acted like a playground bully, threatening everyone who supported them to isolate them and leave them without resources so that she and her group could take over their suit once it was consolidated with hers. Indeed, since they were fired, PEJ has reached out to them to “craft a productive path forward”, one that surely involves the case being handled by Brown’s PEJ attorneys with the shots being called by them.
Davids and Pirozzolo have found themselves both opponents of and allies with the New York teachers union United Federation of Teachers (UFT), at various times. And though their complaint doesn’t go after teacher tenure laws, they are still at odds with the UFT over the other elements of their suit (you can read their FAQ about it HERE.)
However, they now appear to share a common enemy: Campbell Brown.
Brown has long championed transparency and disclosure in her position as an anchor at CNN. However, now that she’s the one receiving the money, she has gone silent. On an appearance on the Colbert Report, she told Steven Colbert that she would not reveal her funders because if she did, people “are going to go after people who are funding us.” Inhis op-ed in Salon magazine, Gabriel Arana lays it out plainly:
If the pearl-clutching millionaires behind Campbell Brown’s lawsuit are too emotionally fragile to withstand any sort of public scrutiny, they have no business wading into a debate whose outcome will affect millions of students.
Brown’s secrecy about her funders is especially unconscionable given her background as a journalist. Her organization claims it wants to encourage debate about public education. But if anything, the Partnership’s lack of transparency only makes open dialogue more difficult. Without knowing who is behind the effort to get rid of teacher tenure, it’s difficult to tell if they are acting in the best interests of students or whether they are among the for-profit education entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the privatization of public education, which has become a multibillion-dollar industry.
From Davids’ and Pirozzolo’s perspective, they are the true grassroots activists and they are being silenced by a high-profile, well-funded celebrity. “We can fight with the unions but still find ways to work together,” Davids told me. “We piss off the unions all the time but we also piss off the education reformers. In this situation, the giants are fighting and we’re being pushed to the sidelines.”
I asked her why she thought Brown was doing this after initially offering to help. “She want to be the next Michelle Rhee,” Davids said. “This is all about her. When she did this, we had to get over the shock that she would to this to the parents and the students.”
Davids and Pirozzolo tell me they will continue on with their suit with or without the support of Students Matter and Gibson Dunn. “How can Campbell Brown go in front of cameras to talk about a lawsuit named ‘Davids’?,” Davids asked rhetorically. “This is our suit and we will keep fighting.”
There are reasonable people on both sides of the issues at stake with these lawsuits. However, if what Davids and Pirozzolo claim is true, it appears that Campbell Brown is using the court case to launch her new career as an education reformer. And, when when inconvenient parents got in the way of that, she used her influence and money from unknown sources to try to isolate and squash them. Rather than “holding their coats”, Brown appears to want to hold all of the power.
For their part, the New York City Parents Union is doing everything they can to make sure the world knows that Campbell Brown has bullied them and does not speak for them, sending out tweets like this one:
"Campbell Brown does not speak for   We are INDEPENDENT, GRASSROOTS PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS who can speak & advocate for OUR children"

The hearing to combine Brown’s complaint with theirs is on Wednesday. I will follow up as this story develops.
[CC Brown photo credit: Asa Mathat/Fortune MPW | Flickr, Pirozzolo and Davids photos courtesy of NYC Parents Union]