Tag Archives: Media Bias

The DOE’s Moral Bankruptcy

As a potential witness in an ongoing 3020a hearing for a colleague, it has been made very clear to me that I am not to talk about specifics of the case. The same goes for my colleague. One gets the sense that the Department of Education treats this as an actual trial.

We have already seen in the case of Chaz that the DOE has no problem with revealing incomplete information to the media about cases that have already been resolved. Despite the fact that independent arbitrators have already closed the cases of 16 teachers, the Daily News was able to run an article about these teachers along with Dennis Walcott’s sentiments that they should be fired.

The Daily News was only able to run this story because the DOE gave them biased and incomplete information.

It does not stop there. Susan Edelman of the New York Post ran a story this morning featuring teachers who got in trouble for things they have said on Facebook. The first teacher that was mentioned stuck out:

Meanwhile, Facebook is an occupational hazard. Patricia Dawson, an English teacher at the HS of Economics and Finance in Manhattan, is fighting DOE termination on misconduct charges for jesting 15 months ago on her Facebook page, “I’ll bring a gun to school” to get into security-controlled elevators. Several students joined in the banter — one offering to bring a gun to help her.

“No one took it seriously,” an insider said.

Colleagues say Dawson should not lose her career over a wisecrack, but her words, which the DOE deems harmful, are carved in cyberspace.

Patricia Dawson is “fighting termination”. Does this mean that the DOE is still doing an investigation or conducting a hearing? Does this mean that the hearing is over and the teacher is waiting on the arbitrator’s decision? Whatever it is, judging from this passage, the case is not yet closed.

I am sure that, just like my colleague, Patricia Dawson was warned against talking about the case. So how did the NY Post get information about a case that is not yet resolved?

There could only be one answer: the DOE gave them the information.

Why is it that a teacher cannot talk about their case, but the DOE can?

It seems to me that the DOE is looking to put pressure on the investigators and/or arbitrator to make the “right” decision. And what is the “right” decision?

That’s right, termination.

If they are able to cause enough of a public uproar, the arbitrators will be pressured to make the decision that the DOE wants. All the while, the teacher is not allowed to speak out or give their side of the story.

This is just one of the many ways that the 3020a process is skewed against the teacher.

It is fitting that the article ends with a mention of Christine Rubino. As we have seen, Rubino was able to get her termination overturned in New York State Supreme Court, a decision that the DOE is currently appealing.

During Rubino’s hearing, the DOE made up charges as they went along. They added new charges not originally included as they went into her past and tried to find things they could twist out of context.

So while the DOE tried to scare teachers with a sense of gravitas about these termination hearings, the fact is that they are nothing more than kangaroo courts. While most teachers do not get fired, the vast majority are found guilty. Exoneration is rarely ever an option for a teacher brought up on the most frivolous of charges.

How much tax money is being spent on these hearings? How much money is being wasted on lawyering up so the DOE can fire someone for something they said on Facebook? In an age of supposed budget cuts where art and music are disappearing and schools are being closed, this waste of tax dollars should be a crime.

Our tax dollars, the hard-earned money of working people, are being spent to fire other working people. And if the DOE can fire these working people for such trivial things, it sets a nationwide precedent for employers across the country to do the same.

This is the twisted game Bloomberg’s Department of Education plays. To say it is unethical is an understatement. To say that it is underhanded falls short of the mark. This is pure evil done by people with no scruples and no sympathy for those who have to actually work for a living.

The 3020a process is in need of a major overhaul. Add it to the list of things for which our union should be fighting, but is not.

Marta Valle High School and the Case of the Misspelled Sign

The non-story of the misspelled crossing sign on the street outside of Marta Valle High School has been making its rounds lately. The Department of Transportation painted the words “School Shcool Xing” in the gutter outside of the Lower East Side community school. The mistake went unchallenged for months, leading many to point fingers at the school for not having it corrected.

Why am I writing about this non-story? Because Marta Valle is where I spent the first 6 years of my career.

I still have a special connection to the place. It was a secondary school when I was there, serving grades 7-12. The population was very small, with most of the kids being from the neighborhood. It was a place in constant flux, and probably still is, going through administrators and teachers like Kleenex. The few veteran teachers who I know are still there are particularly dedicated. They would have to be, since there has never been much direction, discipline or support for teachers.

It is a shame that the school is getting this type of negative attention. The kids I taught at Marta Valle had little reason to have any school spirit. It would not be uncommon to hear kids say that the school was “budget” or “fake”. Kids are perceptive and they know when their school is not being given a chance. This story will do nothing to improve the standing of the school in their eyes.

The building looks like a jail. There are gates over the windows and giant metal bars at the front of the school that lock people out during non-school hours. At the same time, the surrounding neighborhood has undergone complete gentrification. Dozens of hipster bars and restaurants opened up during my tenure there, while the rents of the cubbyhole apartments in the area skyrocketed well out of the range of both the families and teachers associated with Marta Valle. Most of the students at Marta Valle are relegated to the housing projects of the Lower East Side: Baruch, Riis, Wald, Rutgers and Smith. Being located in the lap of luxury only serves to highlight to the students how neglected their school really is.

I can imagine the current generation of students at Marta Valle, who are probably the younger siblings of the generation I taught, using all of the hype around this simple mistake as further proof that their school is “budget”. I really do not know who to blame for this error, nor do I know if blame should be ascribed to anybody at all. What I do know is that the media’s mad rush to destroy the image of public schools has led them to run this story. As a result, a few hundred young people who are trapped in poverty on the Lower East Side have been given yet another reason to be alienated from their school. This coming on the heels of the New York Times celebrating a completely vacuous video made by students at the Renaissance Charter High School.

I hope all of the local newspapers and television stations that have been chuckling over this story for the past few days are satisfied. When any of them want to do a real story, I will be here waiting to regale them with the tales of abject poverty and alienation that constitute this little-known pocket of Lower Manhattan.