Monday, September 1, 2014

The Pain and Isolation of an ATR

One of the first people I thought of yesterday when I read the Daily News article with Chancellor Farina's hopes for the upcoming year was blogger Fidgety Teach.

Fidgety was a highly regarded and loved pre-K teacher in Brooklyn when she got caught up in the evilness of her principal, Kristine Mustillo. One mistake, forever altered the course of Fidgety's career. One mistake, cost the children of Brooklyn a caring and loving teacher.

So what made me think of Fidgety when I read that article? I guess it would be this;
Fariña pledged to announce in the next two weeks a big reduction in the number of teachers getting paid despite not having steady classroom jobs. Earlier this month 114 of the roughly 1,100 teachers — known as the Absent Teacher Reserve — accepted $16,000 buyouts.

Fariña said the numbers would dwindle further as principals are taught best practices for writing up teachers and beginning the arduous termination process.
Just an aside, should not someone at the UFT come out and say something about this? Should not someone from the UFT file a complaint with the NLRB?  Shouldn't someone from the UFT just act pissed to placate the ATR's?

But back to Fidgety. I know how much she wants to teach. I know how much she wants to love what she is doing. I know how much she is hurting inside.

Fidgety wrote the following on her blog today. It will truly tear at your heart. It is very sad. You literally can feel her pain, her hurt, and her anger, anger at how the DOE has been enabled to allow this to happen. 

You see an ATR in your school this week, say hi and ask what you can do.

Oh, and Fidgety really needs to blog more often. She is great!

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?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

MORE Needs to Change

First let me share, for those who don't know, that I am a Jew. It seems important in this conversation, but from what I have been reading it is. I am not a Lower Eastside Jew, wait I am. My paternal grandfather and his family first lived on Ave C and 9th St when they first came over in 1903. Eventually they moved to the Bronx and my grandfather was quite active in Tammany Hall. Oh, and during prohibition ran booze down from Canada and after that sold Slivovitz out of the trunk of his Buick that my great grandfather had produced using my 6 year old father and his 8 year old cousin to smash the plums in the bathtub in his apartment on Walton Ave in the Bronx.

I also have some tried and blue Communists in my family. A cousin, the actor Howard Da Silva (He played Louis B Mayer in "Mommie Dearest" and Ben Franklin in "1776") was a Communist and blacklisted by Joe McCarthy.

When my dad's uncle went off to Berkeley in the mid 1920's, it was Howard Da Silva who turned him onto Communism. My great uncle was soon ushered out of the State Department just before WW II, moved to China after the war, fell out of favor with Mao in 1949, and moved to Rome where he lived until his death in 1977.

My great-aunt (My grandfathers sister) said to me about 20 years ago (This coming from a 91 year old short Jewish woman) "I'll kill anyone in the family that doesn't vote for a Democrat."

Oh, before I forget, I lost family in the Holocaust. My maternal grandmother's uncle (As well as her brother in law. He married her sister!) died in the Lødz Ghetto in 1941 along with his wife and his children. His name, Maurcy Trébacz, one of the most famous Jewish-Polish artists of his time.

So, enough of the bromides, M'kay?

But I am not writing to share my life or make my life the center of this blog post, rather I wish to share why I am disappointed with MORE and fear for it's future.

First, there are some very good people with MORE. These people are able to see both sides of the issue and able to listen to others. These people want to see MORE (As do I) be able to overtake Unity and take control of the union. But the perspective is that MORE will much rather deal with this "Social Justice" mantra than deal with the fact that TEACHERS ACROSS THE CITY ARE HURTING AND IN PAIN AND HAVE NOWHERE TO TURN.

Francesco Portelos was arrested and spent 33 hours locked up (And let's not forget this). My story and Michael Agona. Christine Rubino. Jeff Storobinsky. ATR's? And let's not forget the countless stories that come into my email and DTOE's each and every day from teachers being harassed, belittled and discontinued.

Where is MORE on this? Not to be seen of nor heard from. Nothing. Nada. Bupkus.

When it was suggested that MORE picket and/or have a presser in front of Sam Pirozzolo's optical store, it was met with an extremely tepid response.  

When I suggested to someone at MORE  that they should have had someone or people picket the 84th precinct when Portelos was arrested (It was known several days in advance of Portelos' pending arrest) the answer I received was. "It will look stupid."

But how did I get to have this audience with such a person? This MORE person called me up, on a SUNDAY, and without even saying, "Hey Pete, this is *******," went into such a tirade, that the senior citizens at the CVS I was at were not only able to hear this tirade and imagine the frothing at the mouth from this person, but were blushing.

Yet, teachers do not get support, yet Con Ed workers do from MORE? Why do ConEd workers on strike get attention and teachers don't? Oh yeah, "Well if we show them support, they will show is the same." A lot of people are still awaiting our blue helmeted brethren.

But MORE has no problem supporting the march of a race baiting, anti-Semite while not supporting the cops and the NYCPBA? Edited for the crazies (IN RED) who forgot what I had written  a week ago: Firstly, what happened in Staten Island was wrong. Do I think that people of color are treated differently by than others my some NYPD officers? Yes. Does this effect the way the community interacts with NYPD? Yes. Should the UFT have supported this march? No way.

The UFT showed it's hypocrisy in supporting the march for the act of one police officer. We as teachers are broad brushed day in and day out by the acts of a very few. We are railed against, beaten down and left on an island without any support. By making this march about the UFT's involvement we have put the 99% of officers of the NYPD who do the right thing in the shoes we don't like being forced to wear by outsiders.
The UFT could have showed it's support for the community in other ways than endorsing this march.

We as teachers could have been asked or encouraged to go out into that Staten Island community and found common cause with the citizens. We as teachers have been subject to heavy handed tactics by Tweed and worse, SCI. We, both teachers and the Staten Island community have been affected by the last 20 years in this city of a top down, heavy handed, oligarchy, near police state by our elected officials and those at 1 Police Plaza.
Oh yeah, the old, "What have cops done for teachers?" But then what have ConEd workers done for teachers?

When I bring this up on the MORE listserv what happens? I get a phone call, while I'm in Chicago going to a Cubs game, telling me to cool it. This smacks of if not censorship, but rather being told to toe the party line.

I want nothing more (Pardon the pun) to see MORE succeed. But it is trying to be too many things to too many constituencies. MORE must concentrate on the teachers, the schools, the students, and education and only then will the social justice aspect fall into place.

MORE needs to show the same fervor for teachers that are mistreated and shat upon that it shows for others. It needs to be GEOGRAPHICALLY more (Again, pardon the pun) inclusive.

MORE, has a perception issue. It is real and there are a lot of people that feel this way. And this are not pro-unity, pro status quo people. These are people that truly are searching for an alternative and feel that MORE can be that great alternative but these people just have far too many qualms and concerns about MORE.

It's too bad that they don't truly see that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jeff Storobinsky Exposes The Truth in Brooklyn

The Crack Team is pleased to welcome once again guest blogger and retired teacher Jeff Storobinsky to share a few words.

For those who don't recall these pages shared some of Jeff's story back in June.

Jeff is in the process of suing his tormentors with The Crack Team's favorite attorney, Bryan Glass, representing him.

In today's post, Jeff exposes and names his tormentor. Read on!

A NYC Teacher’s quest to restore his name and reputation.  I’m Jeff Storobinsky and I proudly approved this message.

This is NARRATIVE # 5, which continues my story to seek justice and restore my name.

I will just summarize.

I am 55 years old, and taught for 30 years without a blemish of any sort, ever. A new principal (age 32) comes in last summer and decides to target me. I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions.

I shall name this Principal and the school later on in this narrative.

For many years, I handled key quasi-administrative operations. I was trusted to get the job done and did. This was in addition to handling the technology needs of the building. These years had me teaching with a reduced assignment (less teaching periods).

There are those who might like to minimize my effectiveness and importance in my profession but that’s because they have always been part of the problem, not the solution. For 30 straight years, with 4 Principals with differing leadership styles, and having had an absolutely flawless record and file which speaks for itself is how I characterize my career. One cannot fake success and accomplishments over 30 years.

This past year, many of these key responsibilities were done, poorly or ineffectively at best, sparking debate within the school.

The school had on average 755 students. How many assistant principals do you need for such a school register? 1?, 2? , 3? Well, we had 4.  A stellar 67 year old Guidance Counselor who was there his entire career was excessed in September, 2013 to make room for 2 new APs to be brought in shortly thereafter. After floating through at least 10 schools as an ATR (SUB) for the 2013-14 school year, he retired; not when he planned though. UFT help: NONE.

During my brief stay there during the 2013-14 school year, I politely asked the principal to reduce my assignment by a few periods (as was normally the case and was the case with others during this school year) so that I may better serve the school.

He then went around saying "Mr. Storobinsky does not want to teach”

What happens when I left? The principal then put TWO teachers into the technology room.

During this past school year there have been investigations into questionable school practices too.

Mind you, the principal is INTERIM ACTING.

Let’s now go back to the beginning.

I met this principal last September and within weeks I was on his hit list. My life was made a living hell, the worst emotional pain and suffering one can ever endure. I was under a doctor’s care during this time suffering from extreme stress and depression.

In February, 2014, I involuntarily retired, having been seemingly blackmailed into it.

For much more precise and pinpoint evidence, search through my previous postings and uploads made to FB in late June and July.

If you cannot find them request them and I will post them into the comments.

I also wish to mention that the UFT chapter leader instead of encouraging me to stay and fight and telling me that the UFT will stand behind you flat out told me “RETIRE”. I understand this as he is retiring in 1 or 2 years and like many chapter leaders, look out for themselves first and wish to stay on the principal’s good side. The UFT district rep proved equally worthless too as a very close ally of his who works at my former school lied and said that the district rep did not have a cellphone number.

Of course it will be argued that nobody forced me out that I left on my own (Legal term: Constructively discharged ).

However I equate it with the following: God forbid, if you are on the 61st floor of a burning building and your choices are succumb to the smoke and fire or jump which would you do? I jumped.

After I left, my fiancé, Marisol Perez, an exemplary 17 year bilingual paraprofessional was subjected to humiliation and threatened by the principal   “don’t be caught up in the web”, an obvious reference to her stating to her colleagues that I was forced out.

She herself fears retaliation as do other teachers from this very same school that have come forward with their stories that were published on Money Over Age.

I have taught technology since 2000 and had outstanding classroom management and instructional skills.

I was observed twice in one week in early late in 2013.

The first class, was a newly created hybrid class of troublesome students created and programmed into certain teacher’s schedules so that observing them would be easy to prove teacher ineffectiveness.

When I was observed with this class I had no experience with this class or established routines in place yet. The second observation that Friday was with a better class and I was engaged in a meaningful lesson and had lesson plan in hand with this class too.

It is not until June that I find out that I was deemed ineffective ( I never received a hard copy report of the  observations ) and received a rating of UNSATISFACTORY which prevents me from working for the NYCDOE in any capacity post retirement.

Now the reason for the “U”:  In June of this year, the principal was putting forth his time schedule for this September. I, being in touch with many of my colleagues on a regular basis advised them via text what I felt was in their best interests, and to not feel pressured to vote a certain way since the principal had his own people trying to push his agenda.

The Principal calls me in June and warns me “not to communicate with his teachers” This phone call was RECORDED by my smartphone Call recording app.

After this phone call, it was relayed to me that I got the UNSATISFACTORY for sharing with friends my opinions; and that if I stopped, the UNSATISFACTORY could go away.

Earlier on, AFTER my retirement, there was phone conversation between the principal and me. In this conversation he says to me those ineffective observations would be discarded. Two things I have to emphasize; this was AFTER I had retired and that the phone call was RECORDED by my smartphone’s telephone call recording app as well.

I hereby go public with the announcement that I have filed a formal complaint and that the principal as well as his superiors and his superior’s superiors have or will be receiving a copy of my complaint shortly.  My complaint is based on multiple counts of discrimination; 3 to be exact.

Let me briefly outline the 3 areas of discrimination I have experienced and am claiming in my complaint.

First : Age. I was encouraged from our first conversations to  retire with the promise of unlimited “f status” or per session” He claimed and bragged How he would call up all the principals in our district convincing them of my worth.  This was just bait to encourage me to leave.

He then goes on to say that I am teaching technology to sixth graders out of license with my Common Branch license. When I said I can teach Math which I taught from 1984-2000 he replied with  “really ? Nah, you need to relax and chill at this part of your life” This part of my life? Really? Was I just told I’m too old to be doing this?

Stunned and bewildered, I left his office. Later that night I emailed him and told him politely I will stay on the job to 2016 or beyond, I do not think he liked that.

Lastly on this, referencing his past he referred to a former colleague as “an old Jewish guy”. Much more exists on this particular complaint of age discrimination.

Second: Physical disability. I am 75% deaf. My concerns to him of how I was discriminated against fell on deaf ears.

Third: Race. Of approximately 60-70 staff members servicing and teaching students, I was the only Caucasian permanent staff member left.

One of these acts of discrimination is horrendous, two are staggering, what are three equal to?

I obviously cannot touch upon everything or what my complete evidence is. Recorded phone conversations and voice recordings made from a smartphone are only part of it.

The NYCDOE Corporation Counsel will be sending the Principal himself a copy of this complaint too, as the complaint has to be responded to.

My former Principal’s name is Dr. Shannon Burton and he is the Principal of MS61 in District 17, Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

He is formerly from Yonkers’ Roosevelt High School and most recently from Prospect Height HS in Brooklyn where he served in both schools as an assistant principal.

Money Over Age and its over 8,000 followers and nearly 250,000 readers have been extremely supportive of not only me but other teachers who have fallen victim to Principals without principles.

I fear some retaliation on my reputation but am quite prepared to handle that. More importantly I am concerned about retaliation on my fiancé Ms. Perez, who returns there September 2nd, but she is up to the challenge and is quite strong.

Nothing will ever erase the depression I was in and the toll it took on me physically, mentally and emotionally.

If the NYCDOE has allowed this Interim Acting Principal to become appointed then a great injustice to civil rights would have occurred.

An example needs to be set for what proper conduct for a principal should be.

Principals in their early 30s are too young, being closer in age to their students then the median age of their faculty.

Of importance too is to diversify schools with faculty staffing and students.

Please keep Marisol and I in your thoughts and prayers as we go forward.

Whatever the outcome is, we can handle it.

God bless, Jeff

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The UFT Fool Follows Al Sharpton

I have been away for a week. Went on a little baseball road trip with the family.

So a lot has happened in the last week. The UFT not only supported Rev. Al's march in Staten Island, but was paying for buses to transport marchers to Staten Island.

Oh, and the UFT soon hid it's support on Facebook by deleting the posts in support of the march after several hundred pissed off comments.

Firstly, what happened in Staten Island was wrong. Do I think that people of color are treated differently by than others my some NYPD officers? Yes. Does this effect the way the community interacts with NYPD? Yes. Should the UFT have supported this march? No way.

The UFT showed it's hypocrisy in supporting the march for the act of one police officer. We as teachers are broad brushed day in and day out by the acts of a very few. We are railed against, beaten down and left on an island without any support. By making this march about the UFT's involvement we have put the 99% of officers of the NYPD who do the right thing in the shoes we don't like being forced to wear by outsiders.

At a time when we as teachers and a union need all the support and backing we can get to show a lack of support to our union brethren is not right. Yes, it's been said that the NYCPBA has done squat for us, well someone has to step up and do squat first, why not the UFT?

And, how can we support anything the Rev. Al is leading? Let's not forget his Wall Street Journal article he co-wrote with Joel Klein. Or his traveling roadshow with Newt Gingrich and Arne Duncan. Or what he truly feels about charters. And lest we forget some of the silly things Rev. Al has said in the past. Or the tax evasion, being an FBI informant, or Steven Pagones.

The UFT could have showed it's support for the community in other ways than endorsing this march.

We as teachers could have been asked or encouraged to go out into that Staten Island community and found common cause with the citizens. We as teachers have been subject to heavy handed tactics by Tweed and worse, SCI. We, both teachers and the Staten Island community have been affected by the last 20 years in this city of a top down, heavy handed, oligarchy, near police state by our elected officials and those at 1 Police Plaza.

Why has education been so able to go down the proverbial toilet? Because the citizenry is isolated from being heard (Hence, network offices 2 hours away by subway) which has enabled education to be controlled by a few of those 1 percenters who do not care one iota about those of color. The UFT missed it's chance. This is what the UFT should be marching about.

I don't begrudge Rev. Al having this march. It is his right and plenty do believe in him. I don't.

Nor do I condone those that live in their mommy's basements, drink Pabst, read about Che Guevara and Eugene Debs or bathe in months ending in Y. These people are immature and ignorant.

What bothers me and The Crack Team is Randi marching right next to Rev. Al and wearing a AFT shirt and Mulgrews involvement and thinking he knows what is best for the rank and file.

If Randi and Mikey want to march with Rev. Al, fine. Don't do it on my dime, The Crack Team's dime, or any other members dime.

It's time they start listening to the membership.

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?