UFT Solidarity has shown the light on the discontinued teachers. From 2011 to 2013, over 450 teachers were discontinued and problem-coded. Many have been barred from teaching our 1.1 million children only because of personality conflicts with one administrator. In many cases, when attacking pedagogy was not enough, the administrator also submitted trumped up charges with the Office of Special Investigations, the Special Commissioner of Investigation or the Office of Equal Opportunity.
Here’s a story about one of those teachers. “ELL Educator” was a beloved probationary teacher who received Satisfactory reviews and glowing praise from their administration for the first four months of school. Things changed rapidly in January 2013, when ELL Educator asked for mandated one-on-one mentoring from the school’s UFT Chapter Leader….who just so happened to be in the pocket of the Principal and had been filing fraudulent mentoring hours for years. Within a week, ELL Educator began to receive Unsatisfactory observations, an “improvement plan” which the administration never followed through with providing specific targeted help, and a disciplinary letter in the file. When ELL Educator asked for help from the Superintendent, the Principal quickly drew up a Discontinuance and a U-rating, removing all positive letters, observations, and accolades ELL Educator had accumulated at the school. When ELL Educator filed several grievances against the administration, the probationer was sent to the rubber room on charges that were later on dropped by both SCI and OSI. After a hearing at the Office of Appeals and Reviews kangaroo court, ELL Educator’s Discontinuance was upheld.
Fortunately for us all, this would not be the last the DOE would hear from this brave educator. Winning an Article 78 to get a Discontinuance overturned is very difficult but not impossible with a little bit of luck, fire, and hard work. Here’s ELL Educator’s testimony:I have had the pleasure of working with DTOE before it was officially known as Don’t Tread on Educators. In June 2013, when I received notification that I would be discontinued from probationary service, I felt completely alone. I had filed two grievances against my former principal for contractual violations and became the “black sheep” in my school; no one would associate with me. When I was reassigned to the rubber room on an undisclosed allegation, I knew this spelled trouble for me. I knew that my principal had nothing on me, that this was punishment for me defending my contractual rights, but the prospect was still terrifying. The teachers in my rubber room took me in as one of their own and they taught me how to go on the offensive– by filing an Article 78 and a PERB charge, connecting with legal experts, and that my audio recorder would be my best friend. I was also introduced to the blogging community through the rubber room– notable names like Betsy Combier, Norm Scott, Peter Zucker, and Francesco Portelos just to name a few. I had a group of folks who understood what it really meant to stand alone for the sake of what was right and they taught me the power of speaking the truth. As I fought my battle to clear my name and get back to the place I loved the most (the classroom), I became involved in sharing the knowledge I gleaned in the rubber room with other teachers. FOIL became my best friend and the information I acquired by faithfully emailing Mr. Baranello and copying a list of politicians saved me in court too often to count. My story has a very happy ending mainly due to a good lawyer, support of my family, a fair judge, and the press casting doubt on my own principal’s credibility as a leader. At the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB), with help from my old District Rep and my attorney, we crafted a fair settlement with the DOE that will not only clear my record of the Discontinuance, U-rating, and problem codes from the false investigations; but, I would also be able to reapply to the DOE as either a sub or full-time tenure-track teacher. The DOE and I have entered into a non-disclosure agreement and they have also provided a neutral letter of reference. To sweeten the deal even more, we discovered that my principal is no longer employed in the DOE allegedly for financial misconduct I exposed at great professional risk. Had it not been for the support of those involved in DTOE, I would not have gotten as far as I have. Now, I’m eager to pay it forward. There is power in numbers. Cheers!
Post Script: “ELL Educator” is now currently working in the DOE. She was hired for a full-time tenure-track position in August 2016 and is starting her second year in her new school. She’s an “Effective” teacher (on both her MOSL and classroom observations) and loves her school!