Tag Archives: 3020a

DECLARATION OF A LIFELONG TEACHER

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Please welcome our next guest blogger, Christine Rubino:

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (people) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

To me, the Right to Life means I should not be deprived of my life for the benefit of another person or group of people.

To me, the Right to Liberty means that my thinking be free from interference from the forces of unfreedom.

To me, the Right to the Pursuit of Happiness means that I have a right to live for myself and choose what makes up my personal, private, and individual happiness, just as long as I respect the same right in others.

Today, I realize that these three things were taken from me. I watched them burn, smolder into ash and blow away right in front of my eyes. For the record, I did not go down without a good fight.

Some things in life you are born with. I was lucky to be on the line, which gave me a good sense of humor, fortitude, and the ability to relate to children. I consider the last gift to be paramount to my whole being.

I grew up in the early 1970’s in a predominately Italian neighborhood. It is now known as Cobble Hill. Before it was invaded by hipsters and Midwestern transplants, we just called it “”South Brooklyn”. I lived directly across from the Red Hook projects and one block off of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. My days were filled with playing outside and keeping my eyes on my younger cousins. I loved this job and took great pride in it. It was then that I learned that I was a natural teacher. This has formed a major part of my identity ever since.

My parents moved us out to Marine Park by 1984, which seemed like the opposite end of the planet to a 12-year-old like me. One day, a new family moved across the street from us. They had 4 children ages 7,4,2, and 1. The mother of this family asked me one day if I knew anyone who could babysit her children. Being the boisterous child I was, I immediately told her it was her lucky day because she was looking at her new babysitter. Looking after her children made me happy and gave me purpose. They are grown now and help take care of my own kids. As time went on, they became my second family. There is a trust, an unspoken bond, between us. It is a bond that was forged all of those years ago when they were little ones in my care.

Babysitting was my sole means of income throughout college. I watched many people’s children around my neighborhood.  When it came time for me to decide upon a college major, it was inevitable that I chose Childhood Education. My parents were proud.  They said it was a fabulous union job, something I could make into a career. I graduated from Kingsborough Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood, then transferred to Brooklyn College where I got a B.S. in Elementary Education. I continued at Brooklyn College until I received my Master’s in Math Education.

In 1996, at the ripe old age of 24, I began teaching full-time at P.S.203 which is in a section of Brooklyn called Old Mill Basin. Once there, I held many different jobs and developed into a jack-of-all-trades. I got along with every child that crossed my path, just like I did during my babysitting career.

My days as a teacher were filled with:

1) The constant chatter of children, to which I added constant chatter of my own.

2) Paperwork, paperwork and paperwork.

3) Planning, organizing, and implementing lessons

4) Meeting deadlines

5) Adhering to a minute by minute schedule, including planned bathroom breaks.

6) Creating and grading homework and projects.

7) Writing notes and making phone calls home.

8) Making sure that I was always prepared and that my students were learning.

9) Planning and overseeing trips that I always managed to creatively connect to even the most boring topics.

10) Making copies

Within this list are things that I loved and things that I did not love so much. It was all worth it because it allowed me to be around children; to let my natural vocation as a teacher flourish.

Fourteen years of my life I put in that school before I was terminated at the ripe old age of 38 in June 2011.

Whenever I speak to colleagues, I find that I do a ton of reminiscing. Most of my sentences start with “when, I was in the classroom…” or “when I was a teacher…”. When that happens, my friends say “you will always be a teacher”. Their words make me pick myself up and brush the eraser dust off.

I am still a teacher when I listen to my own children chatter and laugh.

I am still a teacher when my children come home from school and I help them with homework, projects and studying.

I am still a teacher when my friends send their children to me so that I can help them with their tricky math problems.

I am still a teacher when I am talking to my own friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. I am asking a million questions and answering all of theirs.

I am still a teacher when I see a sign misspelled or a grammatical error in a book. I feel a need to get out a red pencil and start circling, highlighting and commenting. I even want to reach for the post-it notes.

I am still a teacher when I am trying to cheer a friend up, requiring me to dig deep into my humor arsenal to get a smile or a laugh.

I am still a teacher when I have to shuttle my children and their friends to and from school and all of their other activities.

I am still a teacher when I realize that every single second of the day has to be spent productively and accounted for. Yes, even bathroom breaks are still planned.

Despite the Department of Education’s efforts to deprive me of my life, liberty and happiness, they have not deprived me of my identity as a teacher.

That does not mean that my life has not been drastically changed. It has changed in ways that I could never have imagined. I was living decently when I was employed, raising my children and trying to keep my head above water like every other working person. Instead of a ”rags to riches”, my life since being terminated has been a ”rags to tattered threads” tale. It is not even remotely close to the life I led when I was gainfully employed in a “good” union job

My liberty has been buried. Yes, I am free to think but I always have this little pitchforked guy on my shoulder. He is constantly poking me. He is forcing me to self-edit EVERY SINGLE THOUGHT, WORD AND ACTION. Self-editing is essential in life but not to the extent of which I am speaking. That one moment years ago when the pitchforked man was not around constantly comes back to haunt me. People continue to judge me, my character and my abilities as a teacher based upon a few sentences I wrote years ago, sentences that I regretted and erased quickly after they were written.

As far as my happiness goes, I have been forced to pursue it even more. I have on the best and most expensive running sneakers. I am running as fast as I can. Yet, no matter how fast I run, I just cannot grab the baton from my partner’s hand. I can see it shining but I just cannot feel it. But, one day, I hope to have hold of it again.

So, despite the fact that I have been deprived of my life, liberty and happiness, I have not been deprived of my identity. YOU CAN TAKE THE GIRL OUT OF TEACHING, BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE THE TEACHING OUT OF THE GIRL.

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Farewell, Old Friend

Joshua Javits (left) takes time out from firing teachers to present an award.

Recently I heard a rumor that Joshua Javits is no longer working as an arbitrator at the New York City Department of Education. All I can say to that is: great!

His tenure at the Administrative Trials Unit in the DOE has been marked by extreme prejudice against teachers. A DOE insider I respect has said that he “fires everyone”, regardless of the facts of the case or the charges brought.  Betsy Combier, who has sat in on more 3020a hearings than perhaps anyone, dubbed Javits as being one of those arbitrators who were “hired to fire”.

Very recently, I had the displeasure of reading one of Javits’ last decisions. This was a case of a teacher who I know and respect whose charges were absolutely bogus. I was not prepared for what I read. It was vitriolic, vicious and seemingly personal. He went through great lengths to describe the absolutely horrid nature of the teacher. In fact, the words in his decision were the exact words the DOE lawyer used during the hearing. All he did was paraphrase the DOE lawyer’s argument, while ignoring every counter-argument proffered by the defense.

What was most disturbing was that he gave absolutely zero grounds as to why he bought the DOE argument. He put forth no original reasoning and, most likely, no effort in constructing this decision. It was an incoherent tapestry of contradictions, deductive reasoning (the DOE says that the teacher is bad, therefore everything he did was bad.) and outright lies. It was a carbon copy of the DOE’s position.

His punishment, which I am not at liberty to discuss, was equally arbitrary. He spent pages on spewing venom about the teacher. Then, at the very last sentence, he reveals his punishment. Again, there were absolutely no grounds provided for this punishment. There was no “this teacher is so horrible and this horrible punishment I set forth is just for this reason.” He did not cite any precedents, previous cases or chancellor’s regulations. He merely rewrote the DOE’s argument and said “here is the punishment”, and that was it. It was completely arbitrary.

It is arbitrators like Javits that have caused real courts of law to overturn more DOE arbitrator rulings than ever. The fact that the courts are getting involved at all says all that needs to be said about the integrity of the 3020a procedure.

Joshua Javits has no integrity.

Does it matter to him that so many of his decisions get overturned by real judges with an eye for real evidence? Absolutely not. He just fires, fires, fires and lets the chips fall where they may. If his rulings get overturned, he does not care. He gets paid his $1,800 a day regardless. You would think the DOE would fire him due to all of the legal fees he has caused the DOE from all of his cantankerous rulings.

So where is Javits now?

Today, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order creating a Presidential Emergency Board to help resolve an ongoing dispute between major freight rail carriers and their unions.

That is right freight rail carriers of America, guess who is coming to dinner? The Montgomery Burns of arbitrators will have a hand in determining the future of your career. Just hope that he does not hate you as much as he hates educators. If he does, just hope that the other arbitrators on the board will outweigh whatever invective he throws your way.

Just remember:  Joshua Javits has no integrity.

I noticed something interesting about the Javits bio the White House put up:

Joshua M. Javitsis a neutral mediator and arbitrator and serves on numerous permanent arbitration panels.  He served on a Presidential Emergency Board in 2007. From 1993 to 2001, Mr. Javits was a Partner at Ford & Harrison LLP where he also served as executive director of the Labor Relations Association of Passenger Railroads. He was also an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center where he taught courses in labor arbitration, transportation labor law, and alternative dispute resolution. He was Chairman and Member of the National Mediation Board from 1988 to 1993.  He began his career as a trial attorney with the National Labor Relations Board. Mr. Javits has represented both labor unions and management, at different times, and is on the rosters of the American Arbitration Association, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and the National Mediation Board.  He has been rated “AV” – the highest rating – by Martindale Hubbell’s Best Lawyers in America since 2001.  Mr. Javits is a graduate of Yale College and Georgetown University Law Center.

It does not mention his time at the DOE. I mean, this was the job he left in order to be on this board. I suppose he is not too proud of his tenure there.

It is easy to have all of these accolades when you are the son of one of the most well-known New York Senators in history. One wonders why he never soared to the heights his father did. Could it be a lack of integrity that follows him like a foul odor throughout everything he does?

Joshua Javits has “represented labor” and served with the NLRB. He is a perfect fit for the era, since the American worker has steadily been losing ground over the past 35 years. We can see why if all NLRB attorneys have the same values and methodology of Joshua Javits.

At least he is gone from the DOE. Now they will have to find the next overpaid shill to fire teachers indiscriminately regardless of the facts. Javits sure got the job done for them, however.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

The DOE’s Long War on Christine Rubino

Casualty of war: the arbitrator’s first decision

When we last saw Christine Rubino, the New York State Supreme Court vacated the Department of Education’s penalty for comments she made on her private Facebook page.

The penalty was termination. The arbitrator who came up with the penalty, Randi Lowitt, knew that this was the outcome the DOE wanted. She was probably the only arbitrator ever to have the head of the DOE’s Administrative Trials Unit, Theresa Europe, stare daggers at her throughout the hearing to ensure she came to the right decision.

As we have seen, in June of 2010, Christine wrote on her private Facebook wall that it was a perfect day to take her students to the beach. This was a day after a NYC student drowned off the coast of Long Island.

Christine was one of the first, if not the first, teacher in NYC to be brought up on charges for something she wrote on Facebook. This was before the DOE’s social media policy. This was also at a time when working people nationwide were being fired for things they said on the internet, especially teachers. The case of Christine Rubino was the morning star of a movement aimed at depriving working people of their freedom of speech.

This movement found many well wishers in the media and the general public. Newspaper articles made Christine out to be some sort of loose cannon. Readers who left comments on the NY and Huffington Post were quick to call for her termination, to exclaim that she was unfit to be around children and to say that this warranted her being deprived of her livelihood.

The drums of hypocritical American Puritanism beat heavy and constant in the case of Christine Rubino. The general public wants to bully teachers, call them names, blame them for low test scores and poverty, say we are underworked and overpaid and are drawn from the meanest part of the intellectual bell curve. Yet, at the same time, they want us underworked, overpaid idiots to be held to a moral system that Oliver Cromwell himself could not follow. They want us to smile at the grocery store, wave hello to them every morning and, if we use Facebook, to do nothing but post pictures of us grading exams and write thoughts about how every child is special like a snowflake.

We are to act like Mr. Rogers and be treated like Mr. Gotti.

Yet, Christine did something that these reporters and jurors in the court of public opinion have rarely done in their own lives: she took responsibility for what she did. Three days after she posted her comments, she erased them from her wall. This was before any investigation or inkling she would be in trouble. She took down her comments because she realized they were wrong. She did not need the specter of public controversy to all of the sudden force her to acknowledge she had made a mistake. Instead, she tried to rectify the mistake on her own accord.

Unfortunately, as we saw previously, a coworker of hers had already printed up her words and had designs to show it to the principal. This is a teacher that has since been removed from his classroom to await 3020a charges of his own; charges that could land him a lengthy jail sentence. Schools always have their resident snitches, the ones who inform on their colleagues because they are unable to let their professional work speak for itself. It is often the case that these snitches have dark skeletons of their own to hide. Finding ways to get their colleagues in trouble is a way to throw the scent off of their own often hideous wrongdoing. So it was in this case.

If it was not for this snitch, Christine’s comments would have dissolved into the ether. No reporters or private hypocrites would have had the opportunity to establish themselves as her judge.

Throughout her entire hearing, Christine was remorseful about what she had said. At no point did she stand by her words or try to defend them. She owned up to her actions for what they were: a mistake, a lapse of judgment, a regrettable action. This was not enough for the DOE or Randi Lowitt or the media or the lynch mob of public opinion. Terminate her, ensure her children starve and never allow her around children again. Meanwhile, the accused child molester who ratted her out gets to work another year in a public school building. Way to go, all of you.

The bright side is that, one, Christine Rubino did not give up the fight to salvage her career and her good name; and, two, the New York State Supreme Court under Barbara Jaffe is wiser than the DOE, Randi Lowitt, the media and the hypocrites. She vacated Lowitt’s decision and ordered her to come up with a less draconian punishment.

That punishment has turned out to be two years suspension without pay. That means that Randi Lowitt thinks it is fitting for Christine to face another year of being unable to support her children. Perhaps this is the “children first” policy the DOE speaks so much about.

Randi Lowitt’s new decision reads like something written by a woman scorned, an arbitrator who had her ridiculous ruling overturned, a primal scream of vindictive pettiness. She makes very little mention of Christine’s Facebook comment and, instead, bases her two-year suspension on the fact that one of Christine’s friends lied during the investigation.

What happened was that, in an attempt to save Christine, a friend of hers lied to investigators and said she was the one who logged into Christine’s account and wrote the incriminating things. In the world of Randi Lowitt, this means that Christine put her up to the lie. What evidence does Randi Lowitt have to substantiate this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

That does not matter. In the world of 3020a, a teacher is guilty no matter what the evidence, or lack thereof, says. Randi Lowitt, understanding that the jig was up as far as the Facebook comment is concerned, instead based her two-year suspension on the fact that Christine Rubino’s friend lied to investigators.

This is how the equation works in Lowitt’s head: Christine’s friend lied, which means that Christine was behind the lie. Yet, every time I ask Christine about her lie, she insists she did not lie. What a liar! Not only that, she never apologized for putting her friend up to the lie. Why does she just not take responsibility for the lie she never told? This is unacceptable! Looks like her and her children need another year of starvation.

She should have lied and said she put her friend up to the lie, then she would not be such a liar! Instead of giving her a two-year suspension for being a liar, I would have given her a two-year suspension for being a liar.

Thankfully, Christine is fighting this most recent round of viciousness on the part of the DOE. Her story teaches us a lot about how teachers in similar situations can find some measure of justice.

First, everyone associated with the 3020a process knows it is a joke. The investigators are retired detectives from the NYPD. When they get a case, they know whether or not the principal or the board wants that teacher out. Their job is not to find the truth as much as it is to use the truth in a manner conducive to punishing a teacher. For example, at a recent 3020a hearing about which I will write more in the future, one of these investigators found that a comment a teacher made on Facebook was a total joke. Case closed, right? Wrong. According to the investigator, he has children and he would not want his children’s teacher joking around in this manner. Therefore, he believes the teacher should be terminated.

This investigation takes about 6 months to a year. In the meantime, the teacher is reassigned and usually does not know why they are being investigated. They are in the dark and they wait. It is here where the DOE hopes that the teacher will save everyone the trouble and quit. If the teacher is sufficiently scared, they might go the way of Mary Thorson. To the DOE and the investigators, it is all the same.

If the teacher sticks around this long, they finally get to the 3020a process. First, they meet with the lawyer who is paid with the teacher’s union dues. Most of the time, the lawyer will encourage the teacher to resign or settle for some ridiculous punishment all out of proportion to what the teacher is accused of. Part of this is laziness. The other part is that these lawyers know that the hearing itself is a joke and they would rather save themselves the embarrassment.

By this point, a great many teachers opt out of the game. They will either resign or drop dead during the investigation, or get railroaded out by their union lawyer. For those hearty souls that decide to go through with a hearing, their union lawyer will tell them the hearing is private. Nobody from the outside will be allowed to witness it. If the teacher wants to make it a public hearing, count on the lawyer throwing a hissy fit. They will make a million and one excuses as to why everything should be done in secret. This is because they want to take the 10 or so cases on which they are working, sit down with the arbitrator and DOE lawyer, and go down the list to tick off the names of which teachers get fired and which do not. It does not matter the merits of each individual case. They would prefer to sit there and divide the spoils, so to speak.

If you get your public hearing, be prepared for one of the saddest jokes this side of the Mississippi. The DOE lawyers will introduce the charges, then they will introduce more charges that they never showed you or your lawyer beforehand. They will then ask the arbitrator, and receive from the arbitrator, permission to add more charges, evidence and witnesses as the hearing progresses. They literally make it up as they go along. Many of these DOE lawyers would be selling apples in the subway if this 3020a process did not exist. They call themselves lawyers, but they are more like law school dropouts and graduates of online JD courses, where all one needs for a degree is a printer and mouse that clicks.

And why not? The DOE does not need good lawyers when the process is so skewed in its favor.

The arbitrators sit there and take notes, allowing the DOE lawyers do whatever it is they want to do. In their mind, it is not a matter of a teacher being guilty or not guilty. It is a matter of what they will find the teacher guilty of and what will the penalty be. Teachers that get to keep their job are so thankful that they have made it through this process that they will take their punishment and move on. Those that get terminated are so demoralized and beaten down by the process that they just want to pick up the pieces of their lives and find some form of employment.

That is exactly the way the DOE wants the process to work. They understand that 3020a is a joke, that the process is a sham, arbitrators are in their pockets and the lawyers are court jesters. They know that the rulings that come out of that building on Chambers Street bear little resemblance to truth or justice. The DOE gets it. This process is designed to get teachers to go away on their own. Most teachers do just that.

Not Christine Rubino. She is the worst nightmare of the DOE and arbitrators like Randi Lowitt. She will not roll over and die while these hucksters make off with her career. She makes the DOE fight for every inch they get. She is now out to appeal the two-year suspension. This explains why Randi Lowitt’s decision reads like the ramblings of a hurt 10-year-old and not a venerable figure of justice. It explains why the DOE releases information to Sue Edelman of the NY Post so she can do one of her trademark hatchet jobs.

A teacher who tries to fight the DOE in its own court is a fool. Everyone, including the union lawyer, is in the DOE’s back pocket. The real fight is in the press, on the blogs and in real courts of law where the DOE’s filth is exposed to the light of day.

All the same, the toll is heavy on people like Christine Rubino. Yes, she fights, but that means the DOE spends more time judging her and her character. That means more hatchet jobs in the press, more assassinations on her character by rank-and-file morons and more opportunities to live and relive this walking nightmare.

Most importantly, this means that Christine Rubino is still without the means to support herself or her two children. It means that poverty and desperation define the lives of her and her kids. How the likes of Randi Lowitt, Theresa Europe, Dennis Walcott, Michael Mulgrew, Sue Edelman and the base fools who leave anonymous comments about her character can still live with themselves is beyond me.

A Paypal account has been established to help Christine and her family make it through this rough time to come. You would think the union would help her, but she does them no good because she cannot pay them dues anymore. Please, give whatever you can. She is fighting not just for herself, but for every teacher who has been, or will be, the target of the DOE and the handmaidens of education reform.

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Public 3020a Hearing Coming Soon

For those that do not know, 3020a is the process that teachers in New York City must go through when facing termination. Some teachers choose to make them private and others opt for a public hearing.

Although I cannot yet reveal specific details, this case revolves around a Facebook post. The short story is that the charges are highly frivolous, much more frivolous than the case of Christine Rubino. Rubino was terminated at 3020a and spent two years getting that termination overturned by a real court.

Anyone who has the time should stop by. It promises to be a glimpse into the sordid, twisted and paranoid world of the harassment of teachers in the age of education reform. As the case shapes up, there will be more specific information on what evidence will be admitted on which dates.

Check the sidebar of this blog for updates on important dates and times related to this case.

Address: 49-51 Chambers Street in Manhattan

Start Dates: April 4th and 5th, 2012

Start Time: Usually 10 am