May 20, 2008

Rubber Room Journal

Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.

While my shepherd sits high on her newly acquired throne of ignorance and accepts credit for the hard work of her staff... I am one sheep, astray from my herd. I have lost my voice, I have lost my way.

I set out for work everyday at 6:30 am., trying to remain calm in the midst of the screeching, moving metal that surrounds me. At the mercy of traffic lights and those with whom I must share the black top, I am aware of the many forces that I must contend with. I pray that my road mates share the same desire; to move rapidly forward in into the space allotted before them. The pace of my road cronies is slowed by the threat of law enforcement, potholes, pedestrians, cell phones, radio stations and caffeine consumption. It is 7:54 and I have beaten my own record time from yesterday. I double park my car, hit the hazards and run into the building. I grab my time card and stake claim of my arrival by "punching in." Aah, It says 7:56 next to the date. I sigh as I am thankful to this primitive recording method that documents my promptness.

My next feat is to rescue my vehicle from it's double parked status and secure a legal parking space. Once again, the "school parking permit" (soon to be a thing of the past if Kleinberg gets his way) that I was issued sits on my dashboard is rendered useless. When was the last time anyone saw a sign that said, "NO PARKING- BOARD OF EDUCATION ONLY?" After circling the area several times without success, I must settle for a space that expires every other day at 10:00am. With no doubt, today is the 'other day' that the sign specifies. The threat of an orange ticket greeting me on my windshield prompts me to set the alarm on my cell phone to 9:45, at which time I must stop whatever it is I'm doing and repeat this time wasting, fuel burning ritual.

It is 8:12 when I sprint from my car and head to my building. I smile at the guard assigned to the door and slowly make my way down the twisting flight of stairs that leads me to the "Rubber Room". (RR) In the hallway that he calls his "office", the 'warden' sits silently. His desk is a bare conference table that was probably once used for school board meetings in the pre-Kleinberg days. He is a reassigned assistant principal who has been hired to watch over the comings and goings of the inmates(teachers) reassigned to this location. He is a 'shell of a man' who once had acquired the prestige of running a high school. Having abused or defaulted in his assignment, he now bitterly suffers the same demise as his inmates. Presiding over the rubber room is his legacy, a job that he takes very seriously.

I tiptoe past the 'warden' avoiding eye contact and enter the tiny room in which I must spend the next 7 hours. Upon entering, I am quietly greeted by my early fellow inmates who have already resigned to their daily routine. "A" who can't fall asleep at night is crashed face down on a makeshift bed of pushing two chairs together. "B" is filling up the glass coffee pot by the water cooler. "C" is busily pounding away at the sewing machine, while "D" is fast asleep at the table in the seat next to her. "E" is on the phone with his Union Rep, I suppose -from what I can make out. I plop down in my chair and look around at the remnants which linger from yesterday's unwilling occupants. On the tables are scattered newspapers, pens and scribbled on legal pads, unopened packets of soy sauce, empty coffee cups and candy wrappers. I use my hand to wipe away a clean area and place my laptop on the table. I stake out an available empty outlet in which to power it up. "Did you read the article in the paper on ATRs?" Mrs. B holds up and article from the Daily News. In walks two women, one with a backpack that looks like it's been trampled on and the other with coffee and the paper. "Traffic was hell", says the backpacked woman and Mrs. B agrees. Ms. A wakes up and greets the two with a yawn and a stretch. "I got here at 6:30", she says. "I couldn't sleep again". I took two Benadryls when I got here and they knocked me out. What time is it?" "Someone forgot to wash out the coffee pot.", says Mrs. B. " Mr. D, you will be getting a counseling letter in your file." We all share a chuckle as Mr. D groggily awakes. "Huh? Oh sorry, I forgot again." he mumbles.

Outside arrests vs. in school cases...

It's been 2 whole months since I was first swept quickly from my classroom and sent here. Yesterday I heard someone say, "This feels like I'm on death row. I'd be out of here faster if I'd gotten arrested. At least I'd have been read my rights and know what it is I am being charged for. " The sad reality is, he is so right. It used to be that if you had an outside case, you could still go to work. By law, you were read your rights and considered 'innocent until proven guilty'. Now under the Kleinberg court, that's all changed. After being arrested, you are now sent to the Rubber Room until your case clears. At least you can look foward to your case clearing. You are still entitled to your due process in a timely manner.
The DOE however, makes up their own make and break rules when it comes to in-school allegations. I've been told that I have to wait six months minimum until I receive my charges. This rule allows the principal six whole months to build up their case, gather witnesses or those willing to lie and cook up up whatever charges they want to. None of this seems right or fair. Shouldn't we also be entitled to an explanation for our reassignment when we are reassigned? The principal wouldn't be able to pile on charges six months later. After six months, if you still haven't received charges, they are supposed to send you back to your school. (This is all hearsay- noone in the RR really knows for sure.) How does the DOE justify holding a teacher in a Rubber Room for six months and then not charging them with anything? Of course, noone really wants to receive formal charges. We'd all like to wake up and find out that this was all just a bad dream. I hear that if and when you do receive your 'envelope', you'd better be prepared for the worst. Charges are often trumped up and things that you never imagined you could do are added on. Noone knows anything for sure. In the Rubber Room we tend to feed on each other's stories and outcomes. Of course, due to its' nature, every case is different. I for one, have not received any formal charges yet. Still, I report to the Rubber Room every day feeling like a convict.

To be continued...

May 5, 2008

New York teachers unions and Reassignment
July 9th, 2007
Has your favorite presidential candidate even remotely touched on this issue–public school waste?

( A philanthropist who just gave $22.5 million to help the city’s low-income children who attend Catholic schools suggested that if it weren’t for the teachers union, he would have considered supporting public education.

Upon hearing of the donation, United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten described the gift as “tainted.”

What actually taints New York City’s schools, however, is the union’s leadership and the collective bargaining agreement it has negotiated with the city. Thanks to that contract, New York City wastes millions of dollars each year on union perks that could instead be spent on improving public education.

In fact, the $22.5 million donation pales in comparison to what the UFT draws from the city’s taxpayers.

Consider Gotham’s infamous rubber rooms, which the city euphemistically calls “Reassignment Centers.” There are 13 of these rooms across the district, housing nearly 700 public-school teachers each day. As of March 2007, there were 662 schoolteachers assigned to city Reassignment Centers. These teachers have been removed from the classroom amid accusations of wrongdoing. Since they cannot be fired until their case has been fully investigated, they sit in these rooms until their case has been resolved. Yet, in the meantime, they continue to receive their salaries.

Some of these teachers stand charged with rape or acts of violence, others with simple incompetence, and others with inappropriate conduct. Some teachers are innocent, of course. (more)

I have heard of these Reassignment Centers (Rubber rooms) before. Let’s do a quick Google search on this.

( The UFT and the DOE each claim no knowledge of the origin of rubber rooms. One longtime employee says they have existed since at least the late 1960s, but in a different form.

Teachers at that time who were accused of wrongdoing were reassigned to their district office where they were put to work filing, typing up reports, and organizing data.

Today, teachers simply rot.

When Argyris reported to 333 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan , one of 13 rubber rooms the district euphemistically refers to as Reassignment Centers, she soon realized that her “job” now consisted of joining about 70 other reassigned teachers in daylong sessions of staring at a wall.

“I felt like a vegetable in a chair,” she says.

Rubber room hours match that of a typical school day—Argyris would sign in at 8:30 a.m. and be released at 3:20 in the afternoon, with a 50-minute lunch break. Like something out of a dystopian fairy tale, however, this school had no children, just a few cafeteria workers, social workers, and custodians who shared the same lot.

In 2000, there were 385 teachers assigned to rubber rooms. Last month, that number had climbed to 662. Argyris, while she sat and stared at a wall, was paid $62,646 a year. The DOE pays about $33 million a year just in salaries to the teachers in rubber rooms—an amount that doesn’t include the salaries of investigators working on the cases of rubber room teachers, the upkeep of the reassignment centers, or the substitute teachers who replace employees like Argyris.

Because teachers in rubber rooms are awaiting their cases to be heard, they aren’t technically being punished. But they are restricted from numerous activities—they can’t use MP3 players, telephones, or laptop computers. (Most flout those rules, however, and use various devices openly.)

Teachers say they soon learn that their peers are territorial and often cranky. One young teacher serving his fifth month tells the Voice the first thing he was told by a supervisor was not to sit in seats claimed by others. Fights have broken out over less, he was told.

“It’s high school on steroids,” he says. “Or maybe a mixture between a minimum security prison and a senior home.”

To keep occupied, teachers read, play games like Scrabble or chess, or work on their screenplays. Art teachers work on paintings. Masters degrees get completed. Last year at the Seventh Avenue rubber room, a group of teachers taught each other to knit. Exercise is a popular activity (more…)

With all the millions spent on this kind of crap, no wonder these schools are in a constant need for more of YOUR money.


Rubber Room Movie

May 4, 2008

Rubber Rumors

It seems as though the lack of valid information about the rubber rooms these days has people talking or "eh-hem" fictionalizing the facts (my new word).

What's this I hear about vending machines in the RR's? No, I don't think so. Desks just like in an office? No. Wrong again. Let's set the record straight here and now. There's a new rubber room and it's on Park Place and Underhill in downtown Brooklyn. It is one of the smallest & most depressing RR's due to its' size and vicinity in the building. Just take the narrow staircase down two flights to the basement and you will find the room on the left. It's the one with the cement walls and caged windows that are so high, that noone can reach them without a window pole. Right now, it is housing about 30 teachers. You can find Mr. Warden sitting there outside with his 'notebook' and 'pen' in hand writing down every move these teachers make. He's even got the "Serenity Prayer"(How ironic!) hanging up on the wall.
P.S. Don't try getting in there to take a peek. These teachers are not allowed to have any visitors or walk in the hallway.