An “Oldie” But A “Goodie”: Am I problem coded?

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Scarlet Letter

It goes by many different names: the ineligible list, red flag, notation, codes, problem code, a block.

These are all strategies the Department of Education’s Office of Personnel Investigations (OPI) uses to control who is “active” or “inactive” in the DOE. Because of the DOE’s centralized bureaucracy and computer system, when you are “coded” for any particular thing (a U-rating, Discontinuance, reassignment to the rubber room, resignation, F-status) this code can be viewed by ANY DOE administrator with assess to EIS (Employee Information System) Database.

If you are not terminated at 3020-a hearing, you automatically become an ATR and are placed on the no hire list of the Office of Personnel Investigations (OPI). Your file is tagged with a problem code. Chaz goes further and states that all ATR’s, whether you became one by excessing and/or the 3020a process, are given a problem code/red flag/notation attached to your electronic file (via EIS). This means that any principal/AP/secretary can see the scarlet letter that you were once up for termination but avoided the guillotine once they type in your SSN, File number and last name into EIS, which they all have access to.

If you have a case/complaint lodged against you— resulting in an OSI, SCI, School-based investigation, or arrest by the NYPD (REGARDLESS if the charges are substantiated or not; REGARDLESS if the arrest was false or not), you are problem-coded. If you are Discontinued from the DOE, you are problem-coded. It MAY be possible for a teacher to be hired with a Discontinuance on their file. You have to be really, really, really lucky to have a principal who is so enamored by you that they will ignore Legal and their CFN who will whisper confidently: “You sure you really want this person? Look at their baggage! They will be a pain in the rear to attach to the position in Galaxy, too much hassel and paperwork for all of us! Let’s try someone else….there, that’s better.” Remember, in order to be hired, you need the Principal’s approval, the CFN’s approval, and HR/OPI’s approval. If you cannot make it past the CFN, HR will never know you were nominated for a job!

The code will NOT be removed from your e-record in EIS automatically or by a DOE admin unless YOU do something (and this usually means filing an Article 78) about it.

The DOE doesn’t like talking about it. Heck, Unity Caucus doesn’t like talking about it. Question someone in OPI about the “ineligible list” and they’ll claim it doesn’t exist. Case in point: Philomena Brennan was a teacher who filed an Article 78 to withdraw her resignation and get her name off the the “ineligble list.” Judge Schlesinger ordered Theresa Europe to give info on how people get placed onto the list and how these individuals get off. Ms. Europe immediately took Ms. Brennan off the list rather than give any information, which made this part of the Article 78 moot.

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However let us now return to the point of this FOIL Friday posting. How can I find out if I have a potential flag/code attached to my name/SSN/FN on EIS?

The first step is figuring out whether you have a notation/code/flag on your EIS file. Now let’s distinguish your e-record on EIS compared to your personnel your principal keeps on you in the school (and that you should be requesting to view regularly. I’m looking at you probationers!) and that should ideally get photocopied and sent to 65 Court Street for a yearly update (doesn’t always happen, folks). Your personnel file does not contain everything on you– especially if you were the subject of a “secret investigation” (yes, sometimes you can be investigated for charges and no one will tell you!) or that you’ve been “flagged” and are ineligible for employment in a DOE school or vendor.

So, call Katherine Rodi’s office. Ms. Rodi’s official title is the “Director of the Office of Employee Relations” (according to DOE Outlook). She’s in charge of informing other personnel who has a problem code and who doesn’t. You can shoot Ms. Rodi an email ( with your name, SSN, and file number. She may not respond right away or at all. Her office is at 65 Court Street. If you go to HR, and ask if you have a problem code/flag/notation on your EIS file, they may not grant you an appointment. The best solution is to call: (718) 935-2849. Early morning or late afternoon is best. Have your File number handy. Be prepare to give it and your last name to the secretary. Might be good to record the conversation (yes, it’s legal in NY!).

You may be told that you are coded as being Discontinued or you may be told “it says ‘Problem: Problem Code…No, ma’am, there’s no other letter or number next to it.” Or, the secretary may say that she/he sees nothing out of the ordinary on your EIS file. Your next step is to use the Freedom of Information Law. You can FOIL your personnel file. But you knew that already.

Did you know that you can use FOIL as a tool to get screenshots of your e-records from EIS, Galaxy, NYCAPS, OSI, OGC [Office of General Counsel; “Legal”], and OLR [Office of Labor Relations; David Brodsky’s office]? You do now! Here’s a how-to:

Step 1: Go here for a more “official” guide on how to FOIL. Review this link before you proceed.

Step 2: Get ready to format your FOIL request. In the text of your email, after the salutation and the “Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law, I am requesting the following…” type the following:

please send me copies, in color and by email, of the following records:

  • All information about YOUR NAME (File #: _______) in the EIS, NYCAPS/GALAXY, OSI, OLR, OGC, and OAR databases. (Full-color screenshots or scans of full-color printouts from each of those databases will be adequate.)

Then be prepared to wait. A while. Feel free to send out reminder emails to Baranello and his gang and send out appeal letters if it’s been 6 months and no screenshots. Eventually you’ll get the following from EIS:

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This tells your employment history in the DOE, what schools you were assigned to, and the licensed position you had.


Take a note at the little pink rectangle next to 07/15/13 (the date this person was Discontinued from the DOE). This is the “red flag” the blogging community talks about (well, it’s more like lilac but you get the picture!). There’s more though.

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Can you find the problem code?

Well, did you find it? There’s a section for problem codes to be listed (see the white “Problem” about 4-5 lines down on the left side of the screenshot?). This is WHY it is so very important that you ask for the screenshots to be in color. For this person, there is no specific number or letter assigned to their problem code. But the proof is in the pudding. That’s it.


So, you discover you have a problem code? Now what?

Well, I suggest you hire a lawyer or paralegal. If I were you, I’d want that code off my record. You’ll need some help in filing your Article 78 since it is time-barred. You have just 4 months from the time you get those screenshots back from the DOE FOIL unit to file an Article 78 to get those codes/flags lifted.

One of our members of Steering in DTOE, did a FOIL request for their EIS color screenshots. When this person went to court….boy, did they stun the judge and Corporation Counsel with their awareness. Finding out about their “hidden” problem code (this person had suspected but never had the proof to prove they had a problem code/red flag attached to their EIS e-record) really helped them out in court.

Maybe this knowledge will help you out too.


UPDATE: This information came from an Anonymous commenters on one of many Education blogs DTOE endorses,

Go to the following:

This is a PDF of the Payroll Secretary’s Handbook. Read pages 69 through 72. It’s a how-to guide on how to read an employee’s EIS page. There is a special section on what the symbol “PR” stands for.

This is PROOF the DOE “problem codes” it’s employees preventing Principals from hiring certain candidates.

12:52 PM

Also read UFT Solidarity’s


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