Sunday, May 15, 2011

School-employee disciplinary hearings

Speaking of insane, the impossibility of removing the worst teachers is true madness, as documented by this four-part series in the NY Post.  Here's an excerpt from #1:

They've killed, looted taxpayer funds and committed other heinous crimes -- but the city can't keep these criminals out of the classroom.

More than 500 teachers convicted of crimes in the last five years -- from drunken driving to assault to manslaughter -- are still skulking around the schools because the Department of Education is hamstrung from getting rid of them.

Only those with sex-related convictions can be given the boot immediately -- but the rest of the rogues' gallery gets to continue teaching throughout the arduous process of disciplinary hearings, according to records obtained by The Post.


The trial dragged on for two years -- marked by 46 days of hearings, 18 witnesses on the stand, and a hefty 89-page ruling by the judge.

Mob crime of the century? Complex terror case?

Nope. Just trying to get rid of a bad public-school teacher.

The city Department of Education and school administrators have railed for years about how difficult, time consuming, and expensive it can be to remove a teacher for incompetence -- backed by numbers showing that only a handful of the city's 55,000 tenured teachers are successfully dismissed each year.

Now hearing records obtained by The Post detail the onerous process by which administrators must prove not only that a teacher doesn't belong in the classroom but also that there's no chance he or she can be rehabilitated.

In the case cited above, tenured second-grade teacher Amy Woda -- a 14-year veteran working at PS 62 in Forest Hills, Queens -- had received nine specifications of incompetence over two years.

Over a dozen observations conducted by superiors as well as by an independent "peer intervention" educator agreed to by the union found that Woda lacked classroom-management and lesson-planning skills.

Woda was offered numerous attempts to correct her flaws but kept making the same mistakes, according to the arbitrator who presided over the lengthy trial-like disciplinary hearing known by its state statute number, 3020-A.

After the city spent nearly $200,000 on Woda's salary as it battled to remove her, she was finally terminated for cause last November -- more than four years after her first unsatisfactory rating.


There's no such thing as a slam-dunk case.

Even when investigations confirm wrongdoing by teachers, it can take the city's Department of Education years -- and hundreds of thousands of dollars per case -- to bounce wayward educators from the school system, a review of disciplinary hearings shows.

Among the absurd cases that highlight the costly and dysfunctional system overseen by the DOE is that of Bronx teacher Barbara Lee.

In August 2005, probers from the DOE's Office of Special Investigations confirmed that Lee, a teacher at PS 91, had helped students cheat on state math tests in May 2004.

The students were so shocked by their teacher's behavior -- including pointing to correct answers or writing them in herself -- that one passed a note to another reading "Look what she's doing," according to the OSI probe.

Lee fought her termination by saying students had confused a practice test with the real exam and she denied providing answers.

Remarkably, it took nearly five years -- until May 2010 -- for the city to terminate Lee.

During that time stretch -- which arose largely from a lethargic bureaucracy short on arbitrators and beset with a backlog of cases -- the Bronx educator was paid nearly $360,000 without teaching a single lesson.

"This whole system is very, very flawed," said Jay Worona, chief counsel for the New York State School Boards Association, which is pushing for reforms to the hearings process.

#4: It's good to see that there might be some action (though I'm not holding my breath):

The state Senate education chair said he'll hold a legislative probe on the disciplinary process for city schoolteachers in the wake of a Post series highlighting problems that have plagued the system for years.

Among those are the Department of Education's inability to fire a number of teachers convicted of serious crimes -- including manslaughter and other felonies -- and the lengthy, costly process for removing incompetent educators.

"The circumstances outlined in The Post are fairly egregious, to say the least," said Sen. John Flanagan (R-Suffolk).

"I don't think anyone should shy away from having open, fair discussions," he added. "I think holding hearings would be a good idea."


NYC's fire-proof criminal teachers go back to class


Last Updated: 10:09 AM, April 25, 2011


This is the first in a four-part series shining a light on school-employee disciplinary hearings, which for years have been criticized as slow, costly and ineffective.

The series is based on an exclusive review of thousands of pages of documents from 125 substantiated disciplinary cases in 2010 and interviews with arbitrators, educators and district and union officials.

Today's story looks at the city Department of Education's failed attempts to remove school staffers accused of serious crimes or wrongdoing.

Tomorrow, we look at the city's most incompetent teachers and the monumental cost -- in time, dollars and resources -- typically required to remove them.


Ax dodge by inept teachers

Red tape and ridiculous costs make expelling unfit instructors nearly impossible


Last Updated: 9:10 AM, April 26, 2011



Crooked teachers cash in big-time as ax slowly falls


Last Updated: 6:33 AM, April 27, 2011


This is the third in a four-part series shining a light on the opaque system of school-employee disciplinary hearings, which for years have been criticized as slow, costly and ineffective at removing misbehaving or incompetent personnel.

Today's article looks at investigation-backed cases of teacher misbehavior that took the school system years to resolve.

Tomorrow's story will look at recent agreements and proposed steps aimed at fixing the problem-plagued system.


Pol eyes 'ed. ax' reforms

Hearings planned


Last Updated: 10:14 AM, April 28, 2011

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