SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Michael Agona's Conflicted Appeal Interest

The Crack Team was able to obtain the transcript of Lydia Howrilka's U-rating appeal as well as the decision brought forth by the Chancellor's Committee chaired by Michael Agona.

Some takeaways.

No one from the prosecuting side seemed organized. Not only did they seem not prepared, but extremely disorganized as well.

We learned a F-status former principal, Dr Rosa Maria Leon, was brought in to work with Lydia but according to Lydia never did. Lydia's principal, Arisleyda Ureña contradicted Lydia.

For those who are wondering who Dr Leon is;
...was born and raised in Spanish Harlem. Having been an English language learner student herself, Dr. Leon’s mission was to understand the process of second language acquisition so that students are able to become English proficient, and at the same time, progress academically. Dr. Leon completed her Bachelor’s Degree at Hunter College followed by three Master’s Degrees: Bilingual Education (First graduating class in NYC), Reading Specialist, and Administration and Supervision. She then continued her education by graduating from Fordham University with a Doctoral Degree. Her Doctoral dissertation is based on a longitudinal study following a bilingual class from Kindergarten to the 4th grade to determine factors that contribute to the successful acquisition of English proficiency and academic success. This dissertation may be obtained from the Fordham Library.
One can be hard pressed to see how Dr Leon has a background in high school social studies, but right now that is neither here no there.

But, as a consultant, or F-status as well as a former principal, one can wonder if she has had or currently has a professional relationship or personally knows Michael Agona. If this is true, should Agona have let Lydia and the UFT know?

As one reads the transcript at no time did Agona share that he is also a paid consultant (assisting principals in U-rating teachers) for the DOE.

Is it possible that Agona in his capacity as a consultant assisted Lydia's principal, Arisleyda Ureña, to U-rate her? If true, should he not have recused himself from this hearing?  In fact how many hearing has Agona presided over in which he assisted a principal in a U-rating?

Are Agona's decisions, actions, verdicts, in these hearings tied to whether or not he will continue on as consultant?

What is Agona's rate of pay for these hearings? Is he paid by the hearing? If so, it would seem the more teachers that are U-rated the more hearings there would be in effect giving Agona more hearings  to preside over.

Did Agona, going into the hearing, have his mind made up? Reading the transcript (Which The Crack Team took the time to highlight certain points) there seems to be plenty of doubt on the administration's side.

Did Agona influence, or worse, pressure, the other two committee members into returning a recommendation that Lydia be discontinued?

We here at SBSB know that Agona's double life was brought up at Lydia's Article 78 hearing and from what we heard, the judge upon hearing about Agona was somewhat flaklempt when she heard.

Did Lydia Howrilka get a fair hearing, an impartial hearing?

Are Michael Agona's actions Kosher?


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Does Michael Agona Have Any Ethics?

Michael Agona is like an onion. As one peels back the layers on his nefarious dealings, there becomes more to see. We decided to touch on a link from last week's blog post about Agona.

Very quickly. In 2006, teacher, Yolanda Strong, was accused of corporal punishment at her Queens school (PS 52) and received a U rating for the year.

Ms Strong requested and received a U rating review before the Chancellor's Committee on February 8, 2008. The chairperson of the committee at the time was none other than Michael Agona. Agona recommended that Ms Strong;
 engaged in corporal punishment and recommended to terminate any and all license(s)/certificate(s) held by petitioner
This was six years ago. Long story short, Ms Strong appealed this, went to Article 78 and it appears that the case finally ran out of steam last year.

But this blog post is not about Ms Strong, it is about Michael Agona and the cloud of pollution that follows him.

The Crack Team has not be able to ascertain or acquire any definitive proof that Agona was paid for anything other than his position he possessed in 2007. However, there is a concern.

Was his consulting business, so lavishly paid by the city, able to not only begin, but to succeed due to Agona's decisions he made as chairperson of the Chancellor's Committe?

Let's assume for a minute that in 2007 Agona did not have a consulting business, that he was just the chairperson of that committee. Is it possible that as a reward for Agonato continue to deny appeals he was able to seamlessly segueway into the world of education consulting with the DOE? Are the positions he fills now part of a quid pro quo with the DOE?

Why would he go into consulting? Of course, there is much more money in consulting than being a chairperson of a committee. 

But why couldn't Agona use his knowledge and powers for good and not for evil? It seems that Agona is only happy, and paid, if he is consulting and/or conspiring, to ruin the careers of teachers across the city.

Not only does it appear that Agona has an ethical conflict in his deals with the NYCDOE but he seems to harbor quite a bit of animus to the teachers of NYC.

We here at SBSB call for an investigation post haste on Agona's dealing with the city. Too many careers were ruined, put at risk, or can be at risk because of a man, a man it seems with a vendetta.

That man is Michael Agona.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NYCDOE Consultant Michael Agona Gets Caught in the Honey Jar

With all the talk lately of lawsuits to do away with tenure and mean tweets, it appears that no one wishes to get to the bottom of why the schools are so messed up; those that are in charge and that make the decisions. Shouldn't this mess be cleaned up?

As many have read in my own story of why tenure is needed, I touched on a paid NYCDOE consultant (Michael Agona) who also doubles as a "supposed" fair and impartial hearing officer when teachers appeal their U ratings;
Michael Agona is a retired principal that is currently a NYCDOE consultant. Michael Agona is paid quite a bit of money from the DOE to assist principals on how to U-rate teachers  In 2011 the DOE hired him for 3 years @$40k per to assist principals wishing to be rid of teachers (Item #9). This contract with the DOE should be expiring within the next few weeks. 

In fact, he was one of the "fair and impartial" hearing officers when Lydia Howrilka appealed her U-rating. What gives?? This is a form of double dipping or corruption, no?

The Crack Team came upon more, oh how shall we say, "curiosities" regarding Michael Agona through Open NYC.(Click to enlarge)
But that is not what has The Crack Team's bloomers all in a tizzy, this does; (Click to enlarge);
Michael Agona seems to have done quite well for himself while taking advantage of the largesse of the City of New York. We here at SBSB sarcastically say, "Kudos, Michael!"

When we add up all the money in the above chart, (And not including that charge for $1,575,000) Michael Agona made off with $245,000. Add in the biggie, and that comes to a total of $1,820,000. That is a lot of consulting. It's good to be a consultant, eh, Michael?

Now, The Crack Team does not know, or can't tell, if these were payments were for Michael Agona's consulting or his side job, rejecting teachers appeals (Or is it the other way around). The Crack Team tends to think that it is for consulting and various other methods Michael Agona has kept his hand in the honey jar since he retired as principal from PS 32 in Brooklyn. But the stench emanating from Michael Agona is pungent and repulsive, that just writing about him and discussing him The Crack Team is planning on taking a collective Silkwood shower when moments after this is posted.

But there is a problem, a big problem? This is a man that conspired to remove me from my direct deposit and was supposed to be fair and impartial hearing officer for Lydia Howrilka. How many other teachers, particularly at PS 154 was he consulted on to ruin their careers? And, how many teachers went before him expecting to get a fair hearing and never, ever had a chance with him?

So many things stink about this, this, CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Yeah, that is what it is, heck it might be worse, but sticking with CONFLICT OF INTEREST for now.

Is Michael Agona's consulting in any way connected to his results as a "fair and impartial" hearing officer?

Has Michael Agona ever presided over a hearing in which a principal he consulted for was the main witness and if so, was this information shared with the Union representative and the teacher?

Did Michael Agona ever use his stature to assist other hearing officers to also consult for the DOE?

Did Agona ever ask leading questions of a principal he consulted for in a hearing?

Did Agona ever deny a request to a teacher and/or their representative because he was afraid it might put him in a bad light?

Did Agona ever put pressure on other hearing officers to rule with him?

To what was Michael Agona's main allegiance to? The money or the truth?

And the teachers are the reason for all the issues in education?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Campbell Brown Plays the Victim

In yesterday's New York Post there was an article pertaining to some bashing on Twitter that
Campbell Brown fell prey to last week.

As the Post reported;
"Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, a leading opponent of teacher tenure, accused her pro-teacher-union foes Sunday of using soft-core Twitter porn to shamelessly smear her."
Smear? Harsh, but one must read on. Accusing "pro-teacher union foes"? Even harsher.

First let's go on record here that we here at SBSB do not condone in any way, shape, or form the alleged vulgarities tossed Campbell Brown's way. We find it abhorrent and certainly not helpful We also do not condone any attacking of her children personally.

As for as her husband, Dan Senor, we feel that since he is a public figure, has served on the board of StudentsFirstNY, and is culpable for the mess in Iraq, he is fair game. But right now that is neither here no there.

The Post also mentioned a real anti-Campbell Twitter account and it's corresponding website in the article. Why they lumped that in is clear. Seems the Post wishes to discredit a real site aimed at real issues that had to be debunked by the Post's propaganda machine.

But something reeks in the State of Denmark vis a vis the Post and Campbell's stories.

We here became of aware of this on Friday, and pointed it out to many (That all was a hoax), when we saw tweets from @datadiva;



Now the stench is getting stronger.
One tweet seems to come from right wing, Tea Partier Congressman Louie Gohmert, but the handle is different than the congressman's. The Crack Team at first thought that someone had either hacked or spoofed the congressman's account.

The same with NewsMax Health, @mort_mcgirt, alleging to be NewsMax Health. For those that aren't aware, NewsMax is a right wing weekly news magazine.

So what you have is tweets from two accounts appearing to be from right wingers attacking the right wing dream; no more tenure for teachers, a stink bomb, no? And even if they were super-duper hard left liberals, we here at SBSB have never seen such invective from such people.

Yet, on the same scale, neo-liberal, Elevate New Mexico commented even though not one of these tweets were directed to him, nor even found on his timeline or tweeted to any of his allies (The usual cast of deform characters), was able to locate these tweeters through all of the 1000's of tweets.

A new member of The Crack Team, Wanda, representing the Southern Tier of New York State accessed the SBSB computers and came to the conclusion that all the accounts above, including @derpjonson, all used the same syntax. The Crack Team found out all are followed or followers of @gomurica as well. Perhaps they all can very well can be the same person?

OK, fine, if they are the same person, or not, why? What is the point. And why was Randi Weingarten mentioned in the tweets? How coincidental that these tweets were out within a few days of the launch of "The Real Campbell Brown" website? A website in which Campbell's lackeys are whining about profusely and can't even refute any facts.

Wanda, along with the rest of The Crack Team and many others have opined that this was all a set up. That these tweets, these twitter handles, were all devised by Campbell Brown's people to not only discredit the righteous, but worse, to make Campbell Brown a victim and to garner sympathy. This alone just goes to show how low Campbell Brown will sink to have her name bandied about in a flattering manner. Nothing, is about the plaintiffs in this Wright V New York State. It is all Campbell, all the time.

Why, and we have it on good authority that the United States Capitol Police have been notified, that USCP has not shut down the accont impersonating  Congressman Gohmert? Why haven't the twitter accounts of the offending tweets mentioned in the Post been shut down? Without a doubt, the rules of Twitter have been violated. So who can be behind all this?

Only someone with the connections of Campbell Brown along with the powerful PR handlers on her side can orchestrate such a devious plot. A plot to shine the blue light of sympathy upon her and to shame any and all connected with teachers unions. This is a new low for Campbell Brown, but sure enough will be followed by new even lower lows. How else to explain how the Post got all over this?

And if this were a real attack on Campbell Brown we here at SBSB feel those behind it are the lowest of the low and have done damage. But everything seems all too coincidental.

One way or the other something smells like crawfish cooking in Acadiana. Right, Alma?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Interview and Discussion With Shaun Johnson

My first real encounter with Shaun Johnson, aka The Chalk Face, came about 2 1/2 years ago in one of those classic Twitter mash-ups.

I started getting into it with the commandant, Kyle Olson, of the über Right Wing, paranoid, and meshuga, education "advocacy" news aggregator, Education Action Group News. EAG News staff like to call themselves reporters or journalists, but really a bunch of hacks that troll the Internet for bad stories about teachers or liberal leanings of schools and in their best FOX News method make the story worse than it is.

But it was a few fun days batting around Kyle as would a cat do to a mouse before it goes in for the kill. I think at one point I had a producer at FOX News agree to have Shaun and myself on against Kyle, but Kyle demurred and wouldn't agree to do the show. Eventually he blocked us both. Oh well.

Shaun and I have stayed in touch off and on through the years. I have always had a great deal of respect for him and feel bad I got him involved in a little of my Twitter tiffs this summer.

I have a lot of respect for Shaun. He is very smart, very aware, and most of all, quite low key, but brutal when he sees a wrong.

So today I was on his Blogtalk radio show and we spoke for 45 minutes. We touched on many things, tenure, my lawsuit, and everything that is tied into both.

The full 51 minutes is here. Enjoy it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Own Story. Why Teachers So Desperately Need Tenure

This is one of the most difficult and personal blog posts I have ever written in my 6 years of blogging, but this story, now more than ever, needs to be shared.

I'm not sharing it to garner sympathy or adulation but rather to cast light upon the incessant abuse of teachers not only in the schools of NYC, but across America as well.

One of the reasons I am sharing this now is that in this current fight to defend ourselves from interlopers who not only wish to take away our tenure rights, but worse, think having no tenure will help us, I am hoping that the information I share here just might be able to help or have a teacher know that they are not alone.

On Friday, August 1, 2014, my attorney Bryan Glass filed a lawsuit on my behalf in New York State Supreme Court naming my principal, DR Alison Coviello, principal of PS 154 in the Bronx, as one of the defendants.

I am not going to get into too many of the details of the lawsuit right now. But there is one instance, a conspiracy, that needs, that must, be shared.

For many readers of this blog you know that I have been reassigned since September 3, 2013 in the Rubber Room. The 2012-2013 school year had been pure hell. Not only was I U-rated for the year, but all 3 of my formal observations were U-rated as well and I received discipline letters for the littlest things. How could this have happened? Why? Up until the 2012-2013 school year I had never ever received a U rating or observation in my 18 years of teaching to that point.

On August 24, 2012 (Just about 10 days before we had to report), DR Alison Coviello wrote in an email to AP Jessica Cruz;
“Hey, I revised Zucker’s job description (per the advice of Mike Agona) so that it is focused more on literacy. This way, Agona explained, we’ll have a surer chance of winning a case when our observations detail incompetence.”
Can anybody guess the mistake? It was pre-determined before the 2012-2013 school year even started that I was going to be found incompetent. Coviello was playing God.

But who is this Michael Agona you ask? Michael Agona is a retired principal that is currently a NYCDOE consultant. Michael Agona is paid quite a bit of money from the DOE to assist principals on how to U-rate teachers  In 2011 the DOE hired him for 3 years @$40k per to assist principals wishing to be rid of teachers (Item #9). This contract with the DOE should be expiring within the next few weeks.

But there is more.

Michael Agona also doubles as a fair and impartial hearing officer when a teacher wishes to appeal a U-rating. But you ask, that was before he was a consultant, so what?

The fact is that while he was being paid as a consultant to help principals ruin teacher's careers he was still in the employ of the NYCDOE as a fair and impartial arbitrator as early as 2013! In fact, he was one of the "fair and impartial" hearing officers when Lydia Howrilka appealed her U-rating. What gives?? This is a form of double dipping or corruption, no?

At what point is enough enough of this dirty dealing, lying, sandbagging going to end?

Eight teachers, including myself, were U rated for the 2012-2013 school year. One awaits a 3020-a hearing, another went through a 3020-a hearing and resigned. Did Coviello, Cruz, and Agona conspire on each and every U rated teacher? Why did Coviello and Cruz decide to treat the teachers punitively instead of constructively? Surely treating teachers in such a punitive manner would have an effect on the students, no?

More importantly, did Coviello and Cruz act on their own or did the instructions come from higher up and if so, from whom and how high up the chain of command?

And if they did it to us, what makes one think that they can't or won't act in this manner to any other teacher at PS 154? Anything is possible.

Can anyone not see why we need tenure? Why we need due process? Why we are ticked off about Campbell Brown? DR Alsion Coviello has just given a gift to teachers city and nationwide. She has shown us why we need tenure and how easily power can be perverted and how what I have just shared is systemic in the NYCDOE.

It is time we collectively say, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!"

When teachers are hurt, it affects the students. When one teacher is hurt, we all hurt.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Another Reason Why Teachers Need Tenure Part 1(b)

Libel; a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation.

I have been wanting to write for a few days about the article in the NY Post last week about a Queens middle school teacher and his relationship with a 14 year old student.

Now mind you, in no way is it being brought into question in this post whether or not he is guilty or innocent, or a little guilty or a little innocent, or condoning the actions of the teacher.

Let's cut to the chase. This teacher was dumb, stupid, and a schmuck for texting a student, especially with anything non-school related and so late at night.

Giving the student expensive gifts and was stupid and wrong.

Letting the student drive his car was stupid and wrong. 

Texting "I love you," no matter how innocuous was stupid and wrong.

Getting facts wrong and making a libelous comment is stupid and wrong.

When this story came out of course Mona Davids was among the first to spew off an opinion. The sad part is not only did Mona play loose and fast with the facts it appeared that she libeled this teacher.

In the Post article it mentioned that the student accused the teacher of; 
...letting him watch pornography in his apartment, according to a report by Richard Condon, the special commissioner of investigation for city schools
What Mona fails to realize is that the above is known as an "accusation." To help Mona understand what an "accusation" is, and for her to reference in the future, The Crack Team has decided to give her a place to reference;
a charge or claim that someone has done something illegal or wrong.
But that is not all. As one can see in the above tweet, Mona claimed (Shall we help Mona with the definition?) that the teacher watched kid porn with the student.

Does Mona know something we don't know. Does she have access to the hearing transcript?

There was not one mention of what type of porn was being watched. Yet Mona Davids magically was able to not only ascertain it was kid porn but knew as well that that accusation was substantiated by the hearing officer. Mona has magical powers, who knew?

But finagling with reality and the facts is par for the course with Mona. She has no problem calling someone, anyone who does not agree with her a racist or that that person doesn't care about children. Right Mona? Know what I mean, know what I mean? Nudge, nudge.

Heck Mona, one could look at one's Twitter feed of late and make an assumption that one is anti-Semitic, no?

We here at SBSB find it vile and offensive that Mona avoids fact checking and reality but the fact that she would stoop so low to publish a libelous statement we find reprehensible.

We call on Mona David to apologize for the libelous comment just as quickly and publicly as she did in making the statement and to promise never, never, never do it again.

This is why we need tenure. Do we know here at SBSB if the accusations the students made or true or not true? We have no idea. We were not there, we have not spoken to anyone involved, and we have not read the transcript.

As much as we find what this teacher did is wrong he has the right, a right embedded in the United States Constitution to due process. One person cannot be judge, juror, and prosecutor.

One person can't choose which parts of the Constitution to uphold or ignore.