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?

13 comments:

Chaz said...

I could not of said it better myself. Betsy Combier is one of the heroes.

Fidgety said...

Thank you Chaz. Betsy is definitely an "Unsung Hero" in the eyes and hearts of many teachers....The Union Leader's failure to recognize this is a great loss to all of its' members.

Polo Colon said...

Betsy has withstood the most undeserved asinine insults from both UFT and DOE detractors who hate her for exposing their collusion.

I have been a victim of both the UFT and DOE's legal scams! Only NYS Education Law (even with its flaws), the Constitution and Betsy Combier helped to defend me against the devious onslaught of their not-so-secret partnership!

Shame on all those clowns and monkeys who tried to destroy Betsy for being the best!

DAVID PAKTER said...

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Re the following Quote:
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"Betsy is definitely an "Unsung Hero" in the eyes and hearts of many teachers....The Union Leader's failure to recognize this is a great loss to all of its' members".
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Please-Let us just tell it like it is, as the legendary Gil Nobel of ABC News would always say.

The so-called Union Leader and his legions of lackeys do not "fail to recognize" anything.

It is precisely because they do recognize that Betsy Combier is a natural born Hero and take charge Leader that the UFT felt they had to push her out of the UFT and ASAP.

And on the contrary, she is not at all an "Unsung Hero" in the eyes and hearts of NYC Educators.

Ms. Combier's sterling reputation for integrity, razor sharp intelligence and plain old fashioned guts, made it mandatory in the sick minds of the UFT power brokers that they must "disappear" Betsy Combier just as fast as they could from 52 Broadway.

Corruption and party politics do not thrive well when someone is around shining the cold light of truth and honesty on the scene.

Strange that I have never noticed anyone observe that the NYC DOE's charlatan of a Chancellor's business card carries the same number for the building address as the UFT- the number " 52 ".

How strange is that?

Or maybe given what we have seen happen to New York City's dedicated Teachers during the past ten years, (and growing worse)- the coincidence of both the DOE and the UFT being located at Headquarters with the number 52 is more than mere coincidence.

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DAVID PAKTER said...

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I never had much patience with the practice of trying to make nice with people who are ethics and morals challenged.

The forces at the UFT who decided to fire Ms. Combier have a lot in common with the agenda driven creeps at the forefront of the school Charterization movement as well as the DOE.

That agenda is to look out for "Number One" and keep the good life and the perks rolling on as far as the eye can see.

The "cannibals" running the Charter movement could not care less about the children of NYC.

And the opportunists who have managed to hijack control of a once great and proud Labor Union called the United Federation of Teachers could not care less, deep down, for the present Hell that UFT members must work and teach in on a daily basis.

Even those Teachers who have not been ATR'd into oblivion and are fortunate to have their own classroom must suffer the humiliation of going to a job each day where one always runs the risk of instant and Hellish payback and punishment if they dare to speak up and speak out to protect themselves and their own and their students' rights.

Betsy Combier was and will always remain a human being who is not afraid to carry a target on her back.

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DAVID PAKTER said...

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Betsy Combier possesses real backbone, true grit and true moral courage- things they do not teach the newbies in Joel Klein, Esq.'s hypocritical so-called "Leadership" Academy.

There the "learning" is about how to intimidate, threaten and Railroad innocent teachers out of the system and out of their careers and their livelihood. That is "Introductory Education Course 101".

Are dues paying NYC UFT Member Teachers getting proper employment protection, these days vis a vis the NYC DOE and ethics challenged Joel Klein ?

Please- don't make me laugh.

Betsy Combier put her personal economic security on the line to do the right thing and stand up and protect the Rights of any and every Teacher who came to her for help.

But that put her squarely at odds with the agendas of two powerful forces whose headquarters are not located that far apart.

"52" this, "52 that". You say potato- I'll say tomato.

What's the difference between them. Let's wake up and smell the coffee and call the whole thing off.

A pox on both their houses.

And a woman who was the best friend NYC Teachers ever had was very ill treated by people who never learned that there is such a thing as the word "Decency".
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Anonymous said...

I am an NYC teacher who has never met Betsy Combier and know of her amazing work only through teacher blogs. Her heroism comes through every time. If there is ANY way we, the union members, can help her now, please let us know. If she needs economic assistance (due to bogus firing), I will personally contribute and fund-raise for her! We heart Betsy!

Anonymous said...

I have witnessed the decline of humanity in this NYCDOE Camp. I have been a victim of an abusive principal who still reigns despite legal and ethical breaches/violations. He is still in command of a sinking ship whose stories fall under BIZZARE,TRAGIC, AND ALL TOO TYPICAL.
KUDOS TO BETSY who I personally met and can say has provided more support than the UFT and DOE combined.

Fidgety said...

Yes David, you are right. The UFT doesn't fail to see anything. The only thing they see when they look at Betsy Combier is a smart, strong, independent woman who puts all of their useless UFT asses to shame. There is no place for truth and honesty in the UFT.

Rich said...

Hi, I'm doing research on a screenplay that takes place in a Rubber Room and I'm interested in speaking to someone who spent time in one as either a teacher, administrator or security guard . If you are interested please e mail me at rich@attentionfilms.com

Rich said...

Hi, I'm doing research on a screenplay that takes place in a Rubber Room and I'm interested in speaking to someone who spent time in one as either a teacher, administrator or security guard . If you are interested please e mail me at richmurrayfilm@gmail.com

Pissed Off said...

You did a great job on Blogtalk radio. It must have been hard but good to get your voice heard. Good luck. I am on your side.

pm said...

Betsy thank you for the wonderful help.You are an amazing woman and have opened my eyes about the sham UFT an all the LOSERS acting like they care about us.