Tag Archives: teacher abuse

WHO IS NEXT TO GUEST BLOG? A ROLE MODEL

This country has never been very good at picking role models. I remember growing up one of our role models was a blond steroid and drug addict.

This country has never been very good at picking role models. I remember growing up one of our role models was a blond steroid head and drug addict.

I thank Ms. Ortiz for her inaugural post here yesterday as a guest blogger. Now that we have an idea of who she is and from whence she is coming, it is a good time to introduce the next guest blogger to you. As you will see, this next person is at a totally different stage in their life and career.

Those of you who have followed this site, or New York education news in general, will be familiar with this person. I thought it was important for you to hear what this person has to say and to give them a chance to say it.

The person to whom I refer is Christine Rubino.

If you don’t know the case of Christine Rubino, you can familiarize yourself with it here, here and here. I first learned about her situation from the New York print media who were, not surprisingly, less than fair. For this reason, I decided to write about her situation myself. Despite the fact that this site can never hope to have the type of reach of the New York Post or Daily News, I would have been remiss if I didn’t use this little corner of the internet to give her a fair hearing. I am glad that I did because, since my first piece about her, Christine and I have become friends.

What convinced me of the need to talk about her story were the responses it elicited in the comments section of the news sites. People could not wait to pass all types of judgments on her character and fitness to be a teacher. It was sadly ironic that people who bemoaned the lack of role models for our children were saying some of the most vile and hateful things to be found on the internet. Vile and hateful not only describes the treatment she received from anonymous Puritans, but from the Puritans at the Department of Education as well.

As most of us know, Christine’s nightmare stemmed from a comment she made on her private Facebook page. It is a comment that Christine has never defended. She removed it very soon after it was posted. Very few people saw the comment. Since no students or parents were on her Facebook page, it would have been very unlikely that anyone who would have been truly offended by it would have ever known of its existence.

Unfortunately, one of the people who saw the comment during its brief life span was the resident teacher snitch of Christine’s school. Not only did he see it, he took a screen shot of it, saved it, printed it out and showed it to the assistant principal, a man with whom he had a “special” relationship. It usually works out that the people who have the most to say about their coworkers are also the ones with the most skeletons in their own closet.

The rest is history, a sad and bizarre history. The Special Commissioner of Investigation of the DOE sent goons to her house to rifle through her garbage. Those same goons harassed and threatened Christine’s friends. They lied through their teeth at her hearing. Her union-appointed lawyer wanted to roll over and die, pretty much advising her to accept her termination without a fight. The DOE lawyers tried to cast a pall of doubt on her character. Since Christine had a clean record as a teacher of 14 years, they weren’t above coaching the principal and students to lie about her, not to mention making up lies themselves. The head of the Administrative Trials Unit ensured that the “independent” arbitrator, Randi Lowitt, came to the right decision: termination.

Did it matter to anyone that this was a comment made on her private Facebook page? Did it matter that the comment expressed the normal frustrations of being a teacher? Did it matter that she had taken the comment down almost immediately after it went up? Did it matter that she showed remorse and never defended what she said? Did it matter that she had a spotless record as an educator?

It mattered to Christine Rubino, who took Lowitt’s decision to the New York State Supreme Court. It mattered to Judge Barbara Jaffe, who ruled that Lowitt’s termination decree was “shocking to the conscience” of the court.  It matters to any teacher or thinking person who has an ounce of empathy.

The Department of Education likes to say that it puts “students first”. Christine’s two children are students in the DOE. Did they put those students first when they took away the livelihood of their mother? Are they putting them first by denying the woman they tried to destroy any form of unemployment compensation? If people are so concerned about role models for our children, why don’t they criticize the unethical and underhanded way the DOE harasses teachers? Barring that, why don’t these people act like the role models they seek by not judging an entire person’s character based upon one news article?

It is for these reasons that it is important we hear directly from Christine Rubino. When I had the idea of getting some guest bloggers, Christine was the first person who came to mind. I have seen first-hand the type of good person she is. I have seen her be a mother to her children, protecting them from the misery through which she has been put so they can have as normal a life as possible. I have seen her open her house to people and share what she has, despite the fact that she can barely make ends meet herself. I have seen how she maintains friendships she has had since childhood, a sure sign of a person with character and integrity. I have seen Christine help me get some of the things I needed to get settled into my new apartment when I moved a few months ago. Perhaps if other people see the type of person she is, they wouldn’t be so quick to pass ignorant and misinformed judgments on her.

Up until now, Christine has had people speaking for her. Me, her lawyers, the DOE and the media have all been allowed to paint the picture of what type of person she is. But she deserves a space where she can speak for herself.

The Christine  Rubino case has been a lesson in the best and the worst in humanity. On the one hand, you have a person who has done nothing but be generous and helpful to everyone around her; someone who always wanted to be a teacher and did the job with distinction. On the other hand, you have a bureaucracy that lied, sneaked around and harassed to get what they wanted, and what they wanted was the destruction of another human being.

You can decide for yourself which one is the bad role model for our children. I, for one, would not allow a bad role model to be a guest blogger on this site. Stay tuned because tomorrow, for the first time, Christine Rubino finally speaks for herself.

16 Reasons To Fire Mr. Hand

Front page New York Post photo of the evil Mr. Hand.

I’m not much of  a movie buff but I do have my favorites. Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of them. Although considered risque for its time due to its portrayal of teenage sex and drug use (not to mention the bare-chested Phoebe Cates scene), it is pretty tame by today’s standards.

My favorite character is Mr. Hand the history teacher, played by Ray Walston. He runs a tight ship.

Imagine if Mr. Hand was teaching in Bloomberg’s DOE.

He is too much of a veteran and too overpaid. His principal, who is half his age with 3 years of teaching experience, needs to trump up some bogus charges in order to terminate his license.

How many things can you twist out of context in order to terminate Mr. Hand?

1) Locked his classroom doors,  fire hazard.

2) Grabbed hat off student’s head, assault.

3) Snatched cigarette out of student’s mouth, assault.

4) Took candy bar from student’s hand, assault.

5) Hovered over young girl’s desk and talked about coming to her house, sexual harassment.

6) Sarcastic towards Sean Penn by saying “I get so lonely when all my students aren’t here.”, verbal abuse.

7) Ripped up Sean Penn’s schedule in order to cause him mental anguish.

8) Revealed students’ test grades in front of class, causing them all mental anguish.

9) Mistakenly said that Platt Amendment was an amendment to “our constitution” when, in fact, it was an amendment to Cuba’s constitution, incompetence. (We know the DOE strives for accuracy in teaching).

10) Lectured class about truancy, verbal abuse.

11) Menacingly waves his finger at Sean Penn saying “food will be eaten on your time.”, assault.

12) Wrote “I don’t know” on the board in order to cause Sean Penn mental anguish.

13) Said Spain had a “disorganized Parliament”, racist speech.

14) Oh my God, did he say “what in the hell is going on here?”

15) Took Sean Penn’s pizza, unlawful confiscation.

16) Encouraged students to eat pizza, promoting bad health. (We know Bloomberg is serious about our health.)

Mr. Hand was called into a meeting with the principal and his chapter leader regarding certain accusations. These accusations were never specified but, for the good of the students, he was reassigned to Tweed pending investigation by OSI.

After Mr. Hand left the office, the principal immediately got on the phone to “legal” and said he wanted Mr. Hand terminated. Legal then coached him in exactly how to write up the accusations to make them sound as horrible as possible.

Both the principal and OSI wrote reports alleging that Mr. Hand “physically and verbally assaulted several students”, “had inappropriate sexual contact with a teenaged girl”, “locked his students in a classroom creating a safety hazard”, “partook in hate speech” and “demonstrated gross incompetence”.

He is awaiting a 3020a hearing that will drag on for several months and years in the hopes that he will just quit. The arbitrator assigned to the case knows that the principal wants him terminated, so he will do his best to oblige.

Meanwhile, the NY Post is set to run a headline tomorrow morning “Worst Teacher in the City”, with a huge picture of Mr. Hand. The tagline will read “racist pedophile harasser collects salary while on suspension.”

The internet version of the story will have 50 comments underneath from readers bemoaning “tenure”, “lazy teachers” and “pedophiles”. There will be lots of righteous outrage, like “why does he still get to collect his big fat salary?!” and “I have to produce in order to keep my job, why do teachers get to have tenure?!”

Sound far-fetched?

There are hundreds if not thousands of teachers in Mr. Hand’s position all over the city.

What is a Plaque Worth?

At one point in my career I made the huge mistake of being the chapter leader of my building. Really, only two types of people become chapter leaders and I am neither. The first is the snitch who sees the position as a way to get comfy with the administration, informing on their colleagues in hopes of securing their own jobs or getting cushy schedules for themselves. The other is the type with the patience to suffer fools (in adult form anyway) and can therefore cut through the din in order to do what they think is right for the chapter. Those chapter leaders are surely better people than I. The biggest fools I had to suffer during my brief stint as chapter leader were not in the teachers’ lounge or the principal’s office. Instead, they were sitting in the United Federation of Teachers office at 52 Broadway.

The building itself is a magnificent structure located in the financial district, not far from Wall Street and Zuccotti Park. The 10th floor is operated by the dues taken out of every NYC public school teacher’s paycheck. It would be here that I would go for the district meetings where there was always an ample spread of pretty good food. I would think for a second that the union actually cares about me, that is until the meeting starts. In short, the meetings go something like this:

Chapter leader from the High School of [Insert fancy BS Bloomberg name here]: “My principal is requiring everyone to work longer hours for free.”

Chapter leader from the High School of Global Research into Something Important-Sounding: “My principal is conducting witch hunts against veteran teachers.”

Chapter Leader from the Academy of Sounds Like a Rich People School: “My principal is going after my license.”

District Rep: “Yeah, good luck with all that. Meeting Adjourned! Oh yeah, be sure to show up to the next ineffectual protest filled with blowhard speeches by union brass who have not won a single right for you in 35 years. If you don’t show up, you’re  a piece of crap parasite who doesn’t give back to the union that protects you. “

After a while I started to realize that the union had no answers for any of the problems brought up by any of those chapter leaders. They had no answers for me either. When one of my teachers, who is a wonderful and hard-working educator, was facing frivolous 3020a charges (the hearings at which teachers face termination), all of the higher ups at the UFT either didn’t pick up the phone or return a message or provide any guidance or encouragement at all. It was as if I was bothering them with my silly questions about how to save a member’s career. Then within a month, another one of my teachers who is also a wonderful and hard-working educator was brought up on even more frivolous 3020a charges. This time, the UFT response was “well, the teacher should not have done that”, the “that” being nothing more than an expression of free speech on private time. The sad thing is that I do not believe the people at the UFT are malicious or mean. Some of them might be but the vast majority are mossbacks who have been in their positions for so long that they are corroded with privileged, bureaucratic rust. They simply forgot what it meant to be a teacher and the rights and protections that teachers need to be professionals. Don’t they use the AFT slogan, “a union of professionals”? It is one of the more absurd forms of double-speak.

But the last straw came the summer after that harrowing school year had ended. I was trying to forget about all the union incompetence and teacher abuse I had witnessed. I started getting missed calls on my cell phone from strange numbers. Only when I played my messages did I find it was the UFT. It wasn’t the usual UFT phone call which was usually a pre-recorded message from Michael Mulgrew, our glorious union president, telling me how to vote at the next delegate assembly. (Where all the “big” union decisions are made, of course). No, this time they added an actual personal touch by sending a real live human to call me. But they did not call to tell me what to think and they damn sure didn’t call to inform me how to help my chapter in any meaningful way. It seems they wanted to make a plaque for the teachers at my school who worked there during the tragedy of 9/11. They called me again and again and then again. They were relentless. They needed to make this plaque and they needed me to help them do it. After the 7th or 8th phone call I felt bile in my throat. I was not against the plaque, I was just thinking of all the union dues I have paid throughout my years of service. I was thinking about all the times I was ignored and dismissed by the UFT when people’s careers were on the line. And now here they are, beating down my door to make a plaque. After that I could never bring myself to represent the UFT in any meaningful way. All of my union dues were apparently only worth a plaque.

The UFT eventually got their plaque, but it came at the expense of one more disillusioned teacher.