October 13, 2015

Jim Callaghan - "Helping teachers or seeking revenge?"

Jim Callaghan

As reassigned teachers, we were the NYC DOE/UFT’s dirty little secret. In the press, we were characterized as those ‘bad’ teachers who sat and did nothing all day on the taxpayer’s dollar. The reality was that many of the teachers sent to the rubber rooms had no idea why they were suddenly not teaching and often waited months for formal charges that did not arrive for months or even years. The union’s lack of response to the press in our defense spoke volumes. Being ignored by our union was the ultimate betrayal. It seemed that they were more concerned about hiding the problem and keeping a low profile rather than supporting us or solving it.
In response to the growing number of reassigned teachers and the pressure to do ‘something’ in show of support, the UFT created a Rubber Room “SWAT” team, whose job it was to visit the Reassignment Centers and counsel the reassigned teachers.  The members of the SWAT team were hand selected by Unity leader, Randi Weingarten.  SWAT team members Jim Callaghan and Ron Isaac made random visits to our reassignment center, claiming to offer moral support, but from a reassigned teacher’s point of view, they were making a visit solely to provide a quick fix by Randi Weingarten in an effort to silence the reassigned members, make sure they did not get out of line, or speak ill of the union. (‘Damage Control’).  As long as the reassigned teachers did not make waves, contact the press or step out of line, it seemed that they, Jim and Ron, were doing a ‘great’ job.

For instance, one of the three reps that visited our Rubber room a handful of times in 2008 was Mr. Jim Callaghan. I bring up his name because much to my surprise, he recently began showing up on my FB newsfeed. During the time that he was part of the RR SWAT team, Mr. Callaghan was a writer for the NY Teacher publication.  It was evident from the first time Mr. Callaghan entered our Prospect Place RR with his nose turned up and ‘holier than thou attitude’ that he was not to be trusted. He was cocky, condescending, and seemed to have no interest in talking with or listening to any of the teacher’s troubles or concerns. When asked a question, he often responded with a loud, sarcastic or snide remark, often alluding to the fact that everyone in the room was most likely guilty. During further visits to the RR, Mr. Callaghan was aloof, unapproachable and barely spoke to or made eye contact with any of the teachers. In addition, he made no effort to hide the fact that he didn’t want to be there. To the reassigned teachers, Mr. Callaghan was a joke and we often placed bets on how long he would last before dismissing himself permanently to the restroom.  His visits lasted no longer than 15 minutes, during which time he never sat down, never removed his coat and was constantly checking his watch. On one occasion he even used the excuse that his parking meter was running out and that he had to leave early.

Reassignment Center @ Prospect Heights

Whatever Mr. Callaghan’s agenda was, it was certainly NOT to help the reassigned teachers.

Since the days of the RR, Mr. Callaghan was fired from the UFT for trying to unionize the writers.  Now, years later, Mr. Callaghan claims to be someone who wants to ‘help’ the newly formed “Solidarity Caucus” led by Francesco Portelos, expose the corruption of the long reigning UFT Unity Caucus. In my opinion, Mr. Callaghan is the last person I would call on as a poster child to promote and attract new members to a caucus that is in need of positive support. Even more surprising was his invitation to a Solidarity meeting where he was given an open forum to speak. Rather than attempt to empower the new members of Solidarity during his videotaped speech, the vain Mr. Callaghan used the forum to air his long suppressed anger against the union who fired him, and, rip apart several individuals (not present) that he has a personal dislike for.  

One person whom he publicly attacked was a former Rubber Room SWAT Team member, the third member, Betsy Combier.  At the meeting, he maligns the name, work and character of Ms. Combier.
While I am no fan of Unity, it is obvious that Mr. Callaghan is a scorned man with a personal vendetta against those whom he feels wronged him. As someone who knew Betsy and the genuine nature of her work, I am naturally puzzled as to why the arrogant Mr. Callaghan would feel the need to launch a seemingly random attack on her. In contrast to the lack of support that Mr. Callaghan failed to provide to the reassigned teachers, Ms. Combier’s dedication to her job as a SWAT team member went way beyond the call of duty. While Mr. Callaghan made a mockery of the teachers, Ms. Combier was a source of comfort and ongoing support.  She listened to their stories and often wiped their tears, of which there were many.  Ms. Combier lent an ear to those who had no one to share their fears and concerns with. Most importantly, when she said she was going to do something, she did it. Whether it was making a follow up call, answering questions or researching information, Ms. Combier always came through. Long after Mr. Callaghan stopped showing up, Ms. Combier remains a pillar of strength for teachers like myself. Ms. Combier used her vast experience of observing 3020a hearings to help teachers who were desperately in need of advice. She was truly an excellent source of information as well as a comfort to us.
 Why would a group assemble to discuss winning an election and putting Unity out, then make such a mockery of a person who has continuously assisted educators and is not even running for office?  Is this the way to win votes? This makes no sense. 
The Betsy Combier that I knew from the Rubber Room, IS and ALWAYS has been a strong teacher advocate.  She is, undeniably, the real thing. Is Jim Callaghan so desperate  to build himself up that he must resort to tarnishing the reputation of others?
"When I once asked Mr. Callaghan why his articles in the NY Teacher never addressed the concerns and injustices of the Rubber Room, he got defensive and blamed the Union Leaders for tying his hands and not allowing those stories to appear in the paper. It always seemed that he had someone else to blame for not doing his job. He even daringly suggested that if I had something to say, that I create a blog of my own ;)