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?













May 13, 2014

A LETTER TO NYC TEACHERS...









A Letter to New York City’s School Teachers

BY KEVIN PROSEN

LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE    New York teachers should vote no on the proposed union contract — for love and for money.



cayoup / Flickr
Dear colleagues,
I know you’ve given the proposed UFT contract a lot of thought, and have heard a lot of talk about it among co-workers and with parents. I know there’s plenty of confusion, and little in the way of what seems to be objective information about a document that will shape your life at work for a very long time.
I would like to step back from the minuteness of this discussion for a moment, and discuss the nature of the work we do..The press likes to portray teaching as a job for the indolent — those languorous summer vacations, the short work day. These people are lying, and they know it.
Teaching is exhausting work, and it extends well beyond the time we spend in the workplace. Every teacher works a “second shift” without compensation at home. This is the time we spend grading papers, writing plans, and (increasingly over the last few years) completing tedious and purposeless paperwork to fulfill “accountability” mandates.
That “second shift” tells us a lot about the work we do — and how it is valued. Why, after all, do we consent to doing it? Because we might get a “drive-by” observation and be scored on a rubric the next day. But also, of course, because our children deserve it.
Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, when everybody points out that we do this unpaid work at home “for the love of it.” This love is supposed to be part of the compensation of doing our job. But people are less comfortable considering that love is not compensation; love is work.
I’m always amazed at how my colleagues labor for endless hours outside of their paid workday; at the money they pay out of pocket for school supplies. Hundreds of dollars of every teacher’s wage is put back into the system each year in these meagerly compensated expenses. Ask any teacher why, and they will tell you that they do it because they love “their” kids.
We do, of course, love our students. But we also can’t allow this to be used as blackmail for accepting less than our fair share.
Love for our profession and for other people’s children has its costs: in the attention we pay to our own children, in the toll it takes on our own mental health and well-being, in those out-of-pocket expenses. We shouldn’t deprecate the importance of having time for our own families, our personal health, our spiritual and mental well-being. We can’t be effective teachers if we are stressed, tired, and impatient.
For teachers, loving is part of our job, and we work and love very much. It’s exhausting, loving and working so much, for such little pay — which explains why over 32,000 mid-career teachers have left the system over the past eleven years. We can’t live on these wages, and we have only so much love, and time, to give.
It’s not only exhaustion, of course. We have been under a sustained attack for years, from the media, from self-styled “reformers,” from politicians in both parties. The threat of standardized tests and the disastrous consequences of poor student performance looms over us like a dark cloud. We’ve been slandered as greedy, lazy, incompetent, and overpaid, and we sometimes feel like we have very few friends.
We can only counter that isolation if we make it clear that the conditions of our labor are also the conditions under which our students learn.
Our union president wrote an editorial the other day talking about how under this contract, teachers will drive school reform. Out of a desire for “collaboration,” we will be doing the dirty work of our enemies — not necessarily our cozy new Chancellor or our liberal mayor, but the forces looming behind them: the financial and real estate interests, the venture-philanthropists, the charter school privatizers, the testing profiteers, and the Democratic Party hierarchy.
These forces have made considerable progress in dismantling the public system, and they have no intention of going backwards. We can’t collaborate with those who seek to destroy us. I want no responsibility for the kinds of reforms these people are selling: they are dangerous and will eradicate what remains of the democratic, humanistic tradition of public education.
We should know by now that these innovations are toxic — not only to us, but also to the students we serve. These kinds of education reforms have created a system in New York that is, as a recent study showed, the most segregated in the nation. Teacher morale is at an all-time low. Suicides among our students are at epidemic levels.
This contract codifies testing as a part of teacher evaluation at the same time that tens of thousands of parents across New York opted their children out of high-stakes testing. It proposes “innovation schools” with “thin” contracts, implying that our rights at work are somehow an impediment to good education. It makes it easier to fire teachers who lost their jobs as a result of budget cuts and school closures. It divides us with merit pay and undermines our integrity as a union. It does nothing to address our swollen class sizes or stanch the teacher exodus from the city.
What interest do we have in “driving” such reforms?
We also know that our union president has said “the cupboard was bare” — that retroactive pay is not a “God-given right,” and that we should be satisfied with this money being further delayed. If workers have not won the right to be paid for the labor they have already done, then the labor movement has fallen very far indeed.
This is money that we are owed, and that those of us who are those mid-career teachers that will have to leave the system in the next few years — who can’t continue working for these wages — will never see. The proposed pay increases fall below the rate of inflation, our rents continue to spiral upward, and every year the conditions of life for working New Yorkers gets worse.
We’ve been told by our union that if we vote this down we will go “to the back of the line” — that we could be waiting for years for a contract. We were told that if we could just wait out Bloomberg, we would be richly rewarded. Yet here we are, still waiting.
To say that there is no money in New York for teachers and city workers can only make sense in the cramped imagination of union officialdom. There is money for high stakes testing, there is money for consultants, for metal detectors and prisons, for Wall Street. There are limitless tax incentives for the luxury condos that are taking over our neighborhoods like a cancer. Billions of dollars circulate through our city every day.
When we say there should be money for us, we are saying that our city should value its schools and its workers as much as its financial institutions and real estate.
Talking about those larger issues means stepping outside the current narrow frame of debate and challenging the larger forces that set the limits for this discussion. It means acknowledging that there’s no fix for education that doesn’t also challenge the racism and inequality of our wider society. It requires courage and vision, both of which are in short supply among the powerful.
If we vote “no” on this proposed deal, we will, of course, be attacked in the press as greedy labor aristocrats. But this isn’t only about the UFT, and we can’t talk as though it is. We must challenge the idea that we are somehow not deserving of a professional wage. But we also need to point out that this deal will set the pattern for hundreds of thousands of other city workers.
Saying no to this deal is about drawing a line for the entire working class of New York City — about saying there is a limit to what we will suffer and how little we will accept. Many of our students’ parents are city workers: they drop their kids off before making their way to operate buses and subways, to pick up our trash, to direct our traffic and clean the offices of City Hall. This is not only about us, it’s about solidarity with the rest of working New York. It is about making our city a more humane place for the people who love it enough to keep it running. That is the language we need to speak in.
A contract is a negotiated settlement on the conditions of exploitation under which you will spend most of your waking life. Don’t accept arguments that this offer is “the best we can get” from anybody who won’t have to work under its terms. Not from liberal mayors, not from union leaders making generous salaries on your dues money, not from newspaper editors; it’s your life under discussion, not theirs.
I hope you will join me and the majority of teachers in my school in voting no on this contract. By all means, do it for the money. But also, do it for love.
In solidarity,
Kevin Prosen
Chapter leader, IS 230
Jackson Heights, Queens
Kevin Prosen is a chapter leader in the United Federation of Teachers and a member of the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators, the UFT's social justice caucus.

May 12, 2014

VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET-How To Cancel Your COPE Contributions From Your Paychecks.



 Did you read the ATR article in the NY Teacher this month?
           What a surprise!... neither did I.

Time and again, the UFT ignores, and fails to address the disturbing issues that ATRs are faced with every day.   I refuse to pay extra money (COPE) to a union who does not support the interests of those who need it most.  
         
This NY Times article is a prime example of how our union leader fails to acknowledge the ATRs and sell a contract that will destroy them with expedited 3020a hearings.
           WE need to spread the word that Mulgrew 's proposed CONTRACT IS A SHAM. 


                                


http://www.wnyc.org/story/mulgrew-teachers-drive-reforms-new-labor-contract
By MICHAEL MULGREW
The tentative agreement between the city and the United Federation of Teachers, of which I am president, is a good deal for the students, schools and communities we serve, in addition to the teachers themselves.
It gives educators more time for professional work, training and parent engagement; it will foster idea-sharing by allowing accomplished teachers to remain teaching while extending their reach to help others.
And a new program will give educators in collaborative school communities a greater voice in decision-making and give the school an opportunity to try ideas outside the confines of the contract and Department of Education regulations.
This agreement also addresses two critical priorities for our members: making the teacher evaluation system simpler and fairer and reducing unnecessary paperwork that takes us away from our students.
It also obligates the department to provide educators in core subjects with appropriate curriculum, something which we have long fought for. In terms of treating teachers as the professionals they are, it offers a fair set of wage increases over the life of the contract.
Our previous mayor tried to make it impossible for the next administration to give educators the raises they deserve. Mayor Bloomberg failed to set aside money in the budget to pay teachers the two 4 percent raises for 2009 and 2010 that other city workers received. He also purposely drained the city’s entire labor reserve fund. Over the five long years Bloomberg refused to negotiate, the cost of paying out those raises ballooned.
By agreeing to stretch out these retroactive payments and raises, we made our members whole and at the same time won significant raises in the contract’s later years.
After years of fighting off bad ideas from so-called “education reformers,” we have, in this contract, turned the tables by enabling teacher-led innovations in our schools.
Working in partnership with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina, we now have the opportunity to rebuild our city’s school system with educators – not bureaucrats or consultants – in the driver’s seat.
Our agreement is the product of a shared belief that it is our school communities that must be the agents of change.


How to cancel your COPE contributions from your paychecks:

Please send a fax requesting to cancel your COPE contribution. The information they need from you is displayed below.

They will send a cancellation card to your address on file along with a pre-paid return envelope so that you can fill out the card and send it back right away. As part of procedure, they must also receive the following fax from you:

RE: COPE Cancellation
TO: Danny Corum, COPE Coordinator

My name is ___________, File # _______________. I would like to cancel my COPE contribution as soon as possible.

[SIGNATURE]
[PRINTED NAME]

Please do not forget to sign and print your name on the fax. The fax should be sent to (212)510-6435. Your contribution will be cancelled when they receive the fax and the cancellation card back from you. Please do not hesitate to contact them at (212)598-6826 or at dcorum@uft.org should you have further questions.

Danny Corum
COPE Coordinator
United Federation of Teachers
Legislation & Political Action
52 Broadway, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10004
dcorum@uft.org
phone: (212)598-6826
fax: (212)510-6435

Please share this with your colleagues and let the union know that we are not sheep!

October 22, 2012

"La Toilette"

"Accountable Talk Meets ATR"...Read about it here...

They say good things come in small packages. First day on weekly rotation and I've achieved the impossible...A KEY to the bathroom!...(and what a lovely bathroom it is). Could this be a sign of better things to come?









October 21, 2012

Out of the Frying Pan... Into the Fire



This blog began 6 years ago as a personal account of 3 long and painstaking years of incarceration in one of the NYCDOE's worst Rubber Rooms. This blog gave me a place to vent my frustration and retain my sanity. In return the support that I received from the EDU bloggers was priceless. I can safely say that one cannot imagine the emotional stress and everlasting damage that the DOE's reassignment process is capable of inflicting on a DOE employee and their family unless they have lived through it themselves. Three years after the DOE 'claimed' to have closed its Rubber Rooms, I and hundreds of union members are still suffering at the hands of the DOE and the Mayor's career ending and abusive policies. I say 'union members' because that's what we are. 

Subsequently, many of my fellow RR inmates paid fines to keep their jobs or were terminated as a result of unfair 3020A hearings. I say 'unfair' because without a 3 person panel as specified in the contract, there was only one arbitrator hearing and deciding the outcome of a case. First hand experience tells me that many of these arbitrators weren't very well versed in the field of "Education Law" which remains to be in a 'class by itself'.  Most teachers who survived the hearings managed to retain their jobs but were not returned to the traditional classroom setting that they once knew.  Instead, they were branded with a new scarlet letter known as ATR status(Absent Teacher Reserve). As the former Rubber Roomers joined the ranks of hundreds of excessed teachers from failed schools(schools that were set up to fail by the DOE),  the ATR pool quickly grew and now stands at roughly two thousand members. (The DOE / UFT will not reveal the actual numbers.)  Pick up the daily paper on any given day and you will read Bloomberg and a number of other politicians describe ATRs as 'no good', 'useless' and 'lazy' teachers who are not fit to be in the classroom. You will also notice the deafening silence and inaction of the UFT on behalf of the ATR. Hmmm. 2,000 plus tenured teachers/union members without actual classrooms and not a word from the UFT... while the  DOE disperses them throughout the schools within their districts to work as glorified subs. 

As an ATR, I feel compelled to resume my voice in the blogger community after struggling through a long and agonizing silence. 

December 10, 2010

TEACHER ABUSE...at its' worst.

How to Mismanage a School System and Blame it on Others...

And now the comments...

80.FidgetyTeachNY December 8th, 201012:09pm It never ceases to amaze me how uninformed and naive the public is. They are still buying into the lie that it is the teacher's fault for having to sit and wait at the taxpayer's expense. This is just what the the Dept. of Ed. wants you to believe- when in reality it is the DOE and NYSED who are not paying the arbitrators to submit their findings and final judgements on the 3020a hearings.
It is not the choice of the reassigned teacher to sit and do nothing. It is the DOE's goal to get the teachers so bored and frustrated that they want to give up, admit guilt, settle or resign instead of waiting for a hearing. Those who sit it out and wait for their hearings will be most likely returned to their classrooms and found not guilty.
Recommended by 10 Readers
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INFORMATION SEEKER...(BETTER THAN IGNORANCE!)
8.machvelianNew YorkDecember 8th, 201012:49 amI want the propaganda against teachers to end. What are the statistics of "guilty" verdicts against teachers accused of crimes...NYT had access to this information, yet chose not to publish it? From inside the system, I've been told most are falsely accused, yet this article spends most of the time profiling people in a display of typical lazy journalism (see the past 20 articles about Cathy Black).
Simply, I would like a true profile piece on this arbitration process and the results...enough of the tales told by a select few.
Recommended by 63 Readers

SARCASM...(BETTER THAN ANGER!)12.PeterQueensDecember 8th, 201012:49 amThis is what an underfunded education system looks like - inefficient. The alternative is allowing principals to fire teachers for basically no good reason, something in which I'm sure the incoming chancellor sees no problem.Oh, more cuts coming? Great.
Recommended by 17 Readers
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SOMEONE WHO KNOWS...(COULDN'T HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF...)16.HIGHLIGHT (what's this?) middlesex nj New Brunswick, NjDecember 8th, 20107:56 amWhat's nauseating is people assuming that those accused of wrongdoing are guilty before being proven so. It is not the fault of the teachers that the process takes so long. It is not the fault of the teachers that no one can bother to find meaningful tasks for salaried professionals. If the teachers are eventually found guilty of wrong doing, then of course they should be let go. Until that happens, the trash talk is pointless right wing blathering and hatemongering.9(A LITTLE EXTREME...) If the administration still can't find meaningful work, the teachers should be suspended with pay put into escrow until the case is decided. (RIGHT TO THE POINT...)Meanwhile, how about trying to get rid of the incompetent administrators and politicians who can't fix or even put band-aids on a system that his been broken for ages.
Recommend Recommended by 55 Readers
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67.FidgetyTeachNYDecember 8th, 201012:00 pmIn response to Juliet, Comment #17...Juliet states that, "Teachers who were placed in "Rubber Rooms" because of some kind of criminal behavior should not receive one penny from anyone.They abused their position and should be punished.People such as Ms. Combier who defend these criminals should not profit from this situation but should be reprimanded also!"

It is ignorant to assume that all teachers are 'guilty before proven innocent". The last time that I looked around we all lived under the constitution which entitles every US Citizen to a fair and timely trial where they are considered Innocent until Proven Guilty. I truly hope that you are never in a position where you are accused of an alledged crime and found guilty by a jury of peers such as yourself. Many of the teachers have been falsely accused of fabricated crimes and targeted by their principals because of their age, salary step or a simple disagreement with their administration. This is one way in which the newbie principal attempts to replace high paid tenured teachers with new inexperienced teachers that are paid one third of what an experienced teacher earns.(newbie principals following Chancellor's orders) Instead of being angry and ignorant, you might want to try becoming more informed about the process. It is easy to pass judgement with blind eyes. Betsy Combier has spent the last 7 years sitting in on 3020a hearings, visiting the Rubber Rooms and advocating for teachers who have been bullied by the DOE. I would respect your opinion if it were based on fact, however you haven't a clue as to what is really going on.
Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers

December 8, 2010

Nothing but the Truth


Applause to Sharon Otterman of the New York Times for writing a candid and unbiased, description of reality in the illusory World of the DOE and the Reassigned teachers. After the signing of the flimsy Rubber Room agreement between Mike Mulgrew and Mayor Bloomberg, the public has been mislead into believing that the Rubber Rooms have been closed and that all cases are being expedited as briskly as possible. The newspapers have done nothing but scapegoat and blame teachers for the DOE's failures. Ms. Otterman accurately quoted the telephone conversation that I had with her while travelling home from 65 Court Street in Brooklyn. Unlike the reporters that I've spoken to in the past, Ms. Otterman asked questions without trying to paint a negative picture of the Reassigned teachers. For now, Ms. Otterman has restored my faith in the press and receives a rare rubber stamp for reporting the truth. To be continued...


New York Teachers Still in Idle Limbo
By SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: December 7, 2010

For her first assignment of the school year, Verona Gill, a $100,000-a-year special education teacher whom the city is trying to fire, sat around education offices in Lower Manhattan for two weeks, waiting to be told what to do.
For her second assignment, she was sent to a district office in the Bronx and told to hand out language exams to anyone who came to pick them up. Few did.
Now, Ms. Gill reports to a cubicle in Downtown Brooklyn with a broken computer and waits for it to be fixed. Periodically, her supervisor comes by to tell her she is still working on the problem. It has been this way since Oct. 8.
“I have no projects to do, so I sit there until 2:50 p.m. — that’s six hours and 50 minutes,” the official length of the teacher workday, she said. “And then I swipe out.”
When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg closed the notorious reassignment centers known as rubber rooms this year, he and the city’s teachers’ union announced triumphantly that one of the most obvious sources of waste in the school system — $30 million a year in salaries being paid to educators caught up in the glacial legal process required to fire them — was no more.
No longer would hundreds of teachers accused of wrongdoing or incompetence, like Ms. Gill, clock in and out of trailers or windowless rooms for years, doing nothing more than snoozing or reading newspapers, griping or teaching one another tai chi. Instead, their cases would be sped up, and in the meantime they would be put to work.
While hundreds of teachers have had their cases resolved, for many of those still waiting, the definition of “work” has turned out to be a loose one. Some are now doing basic tasks, like light filing, paper-clipping, tracking down student information on a computer or using 25-foot tape measures to determine the dimensions of entire school buildings. Others sit without work in unadorned cubicles or at out-of-the-way conference tables.
“They told me to sit in a little chair in a corner and never get up and walk around,” said Hal Lanse, a $100,000-a-year teacher from Queens who had been accused of sexual harassment. He was assigned to an administrative office on Fordham Road in the Bronx in September as part of a deal that led the city to drop the charges against him.
One day he plopped down on a couch in the hallway and began reading a novel, he said. Eventually, he dozed off. Then he was asked to “paper-clip some papers” and refused: he was charged with insubordination. He is now collecting his full salary at home in Queens, with plans to retire in January; the city is trying to fire him for insubordination before then, which would reduce his pension.
“There are indeed still rubber rooms,” he said. “They just don’t call them that.”
While the teachers are supposed to be given actual work, the Department of Education still considers them unsuitable for classrooms while their cases are pending. So it has assigned them to various offices, like those overseeing facilities and food, and the external affairs office at Tweed Courthouse, the department’s headquarters.
Barbara Morgan, a schools spokeswoman, said Friday that the teachers were being as productive as possible given the temporary nature of their administrative assignments. She provided a list of tasks that some were performing, which included processing invoices, arranging schedules, answering phones and scanning documents.
Deborah Byron, 45, was one of about 60 teachers told to report to the offices of the School Construction Authority in Long Island City, Queens. On their first day, they were told they would be responsible for “collecting data,” and someone began handing out folders with lists of school names and 25-foot retractable tape measures.
The teachers fanned out to different schools to measure every classroom, auditorium, athletic field and parking lot, for precisely the contractually mandated six hours and 50 minutes each school day. They frequently interrupted classes to do their work. Sometimes custodians said, “Hey, we already have this, let us print it out for you,” and offered blueprints, Ms. Byron said. In those cases, she would do spot checks.
While other reassigned teachers said they felt ostracized and uncomfortable among their peers, hearing whispers about their “rubber room status,” Ms. Byron said she tried to look as official as possible, never revealing that she had been reassigned and was facing suspension for insubordination, she said.
“I had strappy sandals on, and a clipboard and a pen, and an old Board of Education ID,” she said. “Some of the younger teachers were almost envious — they came up and said, how did you get this job? Because they were struggling with 20-something kids and I’m here walking around.”
In October, Ms. Byron was reassigned to a truancy center in a church basement in Far Rockaway, Queens. When the police brought in truants, she looked up their records on her personal laptop and tracked down their parents’ and school phone numbers. Then she tried to counsel the students. “I talk to them and ask them why they didn’t go to school,” she said at the time.
Reassigned teachers work at a dozen truancy offices around the city, but not all of them may be as effective. Ms. Byron said the other teacher she worked with did not bring her own computer and still could not access the system by mid-November. (Ms. Byron was recently sent home, her case concluding with an eight-month unpaid suspension.)
Despite the difficulties of finding the teachers actual work, cases are moving much faster than before the April agreement, when lawyers for both sides, arbitrators and defendants all played a role in dragging them out, sometimes for years. In mid-November, there were 236 teachers and administrators still in reassignment, down from 770 when the deal to close the rubber rooms was signed.
Ms. Morgan, the city spokeswoman, said the city was on track to close all the cases that had existed before April by the end of the year, except for those involving arrests or special investigation. The city did not provide information on how many teachers were fired, suspended or fined, and how many returned to teaching, saying that information would be available in January.
Last month, 16 accused teachers were supposed to return to the classroom when officials missed a new 60-day deadline to file formal charges against them. But some got their charges as soon as the following day, and most still have “rubber room duties” in schools, said Betsy Combier, a former union employee who now counsels reassigned teachers independently.
While several former rubber room teachers said they much preferred their new, comfortable assignments, describing luxuries like office-cleaning services and microwave ovens, others said they missed the camaraderie of the rubber room. All said they would rather be back teaching students.
“The people from my rubber room are all here,” said a preschool teacher who blogs under the pseudonym FidgetyTeach and has been assigned to administrative offices in Downtown Brooklyn, “and we are all very distressed.” She declined to be identified by name because her case was still before an arbitrator.
She was reassigned three years ago after she was accused of leaving a child unattended. She said that while the people in her new office were pleasant enough, she had had nothing to do since the first week.
“Some people are doing filing, but they are not even wanting to do it,” she said of her fellow reassigned teachers. “It’s menial work. Most people are not doing anything; they are just sitting there. This is punishment, whether the city wants to see it that way or not.”
Juliet Linderman contributed reporting.
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September 15, 2010

...If You Knew Betsy...


They say that there is an exception to every rule- and when it comes to the Useless UFT, that exception comes in the form of a beautiful, green eyed blonde, an unconventional, bright and passionate woman named Betsy Combier.

The first time that I met Ms.Combier was almost three years ago. She walked into our Rubber Room wearing an embroidered suede jacket and up to the knee high heeled boots. Unlike most of the women who work for the UFT, Betsy exuded a refreshing warmth and feminine quality. In a sweet and soft voice, Betsy introduced herself as someone who would be coming once a week to assist reassigned teachers with any problems or questions they may have. She greeted some of the teachers that she already knew and then proceeded to personally introduce herself to each and every new face. As she approached where I was sitting, one of the teachers quickly whispered,"Don't trust her." "Why?", I asked. That teacher put her head down as Ms. Combier greeted me. Although her warmth and openness was indeed refreshing, I cautiously welcomed her into my space. She handed me her card and told me to call her anytime I needed to talk. Soon after meeting her, I learned that Betsy had several blogs and was involved in advocating for the rights of students, parents and teachers. Having been a PTA president and raising four daughters in the Public school system, Betsy knew the system from many angles. She attended PEP meetings where she spoke out for the rights of the RR teachers, questioned the inflated power of the principals, the agenda, our Mayor and the unqualified Chancellor-without-a-contract.

The following week, Ms. Combier entered our RR wearing a flouncy skirt and carrying a fringed handbag. I could hear her in the hallway making small talk with the horrible Mr. Warden before entering the RR as scheduled. Two of the teachers immediately grabbed her ear, taking her to the private "staircase" in the hallway to talk.
Besides providing answers, listening to the teachers and following up on all inquiries, the difference between Betsy Combier and the rest of the UFT Reps was that Betsy came with no agenda. Having been hired only part time by Randi Weingarten to support the reassigned teachers in the RR, Betsy gave her support in the only way that she knew how...FULL time. Here is a woman who does not drive or ride the subway, but somehow managed to spend everyday, yes, EVERYDAY of the week visiting a different RR facility throughout the city or talking with distraught members of the TRCs. On a salary that barely covered her expenses, Ms. Combier never missed an opportunity to talk to, advise, assist and console hundreds of reassigned teachers over a seven year period. Unlike the other unapproachable, angry and aloof Useless UFT Reps (they know who they are) who shamelessly looked at their watches, worried about the running meter, came empty handed and stayed only long enough to say that they 'showed up', Betsy genuinely wanted to be there. Betsy sat amongst the teachers, never looking at the time, never making excuses. If for some unavoidable reason, she'd be late, Betsy would call one of us on our personal cell phones to let us know. If that wasn't enough, Reassigned teachers called Betsy early in the morning and all hours of the night when sleeping seemed like an impossible feat. Betsy knew the teachers. She knew their pain and hurt. She felt their frustration. She guided and empowered them to help themselves. Singlehandedly, Ms. Combier made up for the shortcomings and absence of all of the UFT reps that I have ever met. Those who allowed themselves to know her, loved her and still do. Those who doubted her sincerity were obviously afraid of her unconventional warmth and wisdom; do you blame them after the way they the UFT treats them?? However, those who didn't know her, missed out on her natural gift for being a true PEOPLE advocate and great friend.

One would think that by the way I have described Mrs. Combier, the UFT would recognize and value her for the rare GEM that she is.
Why then is Ms. Combier no longer employed by the UFT? Shockingly, the only thank you that Ms. Combier received for seven years of dedicated service to the UFT was a Pink slip on July 7, 2010. She was told by UFT Co-Staff Director Ellie Engler that the UFT no longer needed her service since the Rubber Rooms were to be closed. Ellie Engler is the very same person who did everything in her power to make Betsy's life at the UFT as difficult and uncomfortable as possible.

In 2009, Ms. Engler told Betsy to pack up her office at 52 Broadway because it was needed by the UFT for someone else. She promised to provide her with boxes and an alternative office location by the next day. At 6PM on the following day, there were still no boxes and nowhere to move them to. She was told to contact David Hickey, but received no response to her messages. After filling up several black trash bags with her papers and files, Betsy removed most of her things with the help of a teacher friend. After several months of working without an office, the Queens TRC liason asked Leroy Barr for an explanation. Several UFT members wanted to meet with Betsy, but without an office, this was impossible. After walking around the 16th floor, Mr. Barr located the telephone that had Betsy's number hooked up to a remote desk somewhere on the other side of the building. This, he told her, would be her new "office". Betsy's only request was that her files from her old office be safely moved to her new location. However, most of the files from her old office were never found.
The harassment continued after the Christmas break when Betsy returned to find that her cubicle had been moved by Ellie Engler and that her computer and telephone had disappeared. After scavenging for her things, Betsy's telephone was eventually found on the 11th floor.

After Betsy made several requests to Ms. Engler for her newly printed UFT business cards, Ms. Engler asked that Betsy take down the posts on her blog, NYC Rubber Room Reporter that contained Theresa Europe's name. (Theresa Europe is in charge of the DOE attorneys in The "Gotcha Squad") Betsy refused Ms. Engler's request and in turn, never received her cards. In addition, Adam Ross, the Attorney for Mike Mulgrew, told Betsy that she is to refrain from filing any FOIL (Freedom of Information requests) of anyone who is employed by the NYCDOE. Because Ms. Combier refused to heed these requests, she was fired. (Yet in her agreement it says she is hired to help any member in the TRC or elsewhere who needs help, and continue to write and advocate for people she assisted before she worked for the UFT) Ms. Combier may have been fired by the UFT, but she has not stopped working on behalf of the UFT's teachers who are still very much in need of her valuable knowledge and assistance.

Now, Betsy is pursuing her advocacy outside of the UFT from her office at home. Her email is betsy.combier@gmail.com. I know she will be there for you, me, and anyone who needs help. Shame on the UFT for firing one of our most dedicated and productive representatives.
Are you reading this, Mr. Mulgrew, Ms. Engler and Mr. Hickey?