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The Best Laid Plans
May 26, 2014
Principals can collect lesson plans but can't say what goes in them, arbitrator rules
Just weeks after negotiating a contract with the city that many hailed as a victory for educators, the city teachers union has successfully argued that teachers alone get to decide what to put in their lesson plans.
June 3, 2013
What King decreed, Part II: Growth measures, surveys, and more
The teacher evaluation plan that State Education Commissioner John King set for the city over the weekend has prompted both city and union officials to claim victories. But a point-by-point analysis of some of the major areas of dispute shows that the truth is more complex than either side has proclaimed. We've rounded up some of the biggest disputes and how King settled them. In our first installment, we looked at King's decisions on issues relating to teacher observations. In the second installment, we look at other issues where King bridged gaps between the city's and union's positions. School-based committees to decide student growth measures Outcome: Shared UFT/DOE win Both the city and the UFT agreed that figuring how to calculate the "locally selected" piece of student growth should be decided at the school level. But they disagreed about who should make that decision and about one of the options they should have. The UFT wanted a team of teachers to make the choice, but the city wanted principals to have complete discretion. King accepted the union's suggestion that each school have a committee to draft recommendations for which student growth measure to use. But, siding with the city, he said principals could reject the committee's recommendations.
May 8, 2013
King outlines path for arbitration in NYC's teacher eval dispute
State Education Commissioner John King released details of the arbitration process meant to settle a longstanding dispute over teacher evaluations in New York City. The process, outlined in state law, will determine the city's teacher evaluation system for the next school year. The first part of the process, pre-hearing arbitration, gets kickstarted as soon as the city and the United Federation of Teachers electronically post separate evaluation plans to the state's Review Room website, where districts have uploaded their evaluation plans as they complete them. The state wants to see the specific areas under dispute and will review position papers — limited to 20 pages in length — in which each side argues its respective stands. Those materials are due at 11:59 p.m. today. Both sides say they'll submit before the deadline, rather than submit a jointly negotiated deal. The documents won't be made public. The state has promised confidentiality because the plans are considered "unresolved issues pertaining to ongoing collective bargaining negotiations," which are protected from public scrutiny.
January 3, 2013
In case of special ed data system, a ruling mostly in UFT's favor
Teachers who worked outside of their regular school day to enter information in the Department of Education's special education data system last year will get paid for their time, according to a labor decision announced today. After teachers told the United Federation of Teachers that using the new system to record information about their everyday activities was burdensome, the union filed an official complaint in mid-2011. An arbitrator heard the union's case and the Department of Education's defense on 19 dates between December 2011 and October 2012 before concluding that the department's implementation violated the union's contract. "After the longest arbitration in UFT history, the independent arbitrator, Jay Siegel, today concluded that the workday provisions in our contract had been violated," UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote in a letter to other union officials late today. The city was permitted to introduce the system, called the Special Education Student Information System, without the union's consent, Siegel decided. But he ruled that it was wrong to require educators to record their encounters with students when doing so required them to work outside of their contractual school day.
August 21, 2012
After rueing SIG funding loss, city will give schools $18 million
A month ago, city officials said 24 struggling schools would have to miss out on costly school improvement programs because they were ineligible for federal "turnaround" grants. Now the city plans to pony up its own funds. In a release to reporters this afternoon that was short on details, officials said the department would allocate $18 million to the schools as "one-time transitional support" to make up for the loss of $30 million School Improvement Grants. City efforts to secure federal funding for these schools have been tense since the State Education Department yanked the funding from them and other schools late last December as a consequence for the city and union's unresolved teacher evaluation negotiations. To secure the funds, the city proposed to have 33 schools, later reduced to 24, undergo a stringent reform regimen called turnaround, which would have required the city to replace at least half the teachers at each school. To hit that quota, the city proposed closing the schools and re-opening them after replacing some teachers through a contractual process called 18-D. But an independent arbitrator ruled that those plans violated the teachers' contracts, and a court upheld the ruling in July. That ruling effectively made the city ineligible to receive the federal "turnaround" aid.
July 27, 2012
With "turnaround" dead in the water, city releases plan details
Even as city officials swore that they had not set any quota for rehiring at schools it was trying to shake up, they were assuring the state that the schools would replace at least 50 percent of teachers. The assurances were made in nearly 800 pages of documents submitted to the state in March as part of the city's application for federal School Improvement Grants. The city released the original application Thursday, four months after submitting it and two days after a State Supreme Court effectively torpedoed the city's bid for the funds. The documents include a letter addressed to State Education Commissioner John King from the deputy chancellor overseeing turnaround, an outline of the plans, and a 770-page tome on changes the city proposed for each of the 24 schools, along with the city's justification for planning to close each of them. The release did not reflect changes that state and city officials said were made throughout the spring. The city also released a shortlist of programs on Thursday that it says are now at risk after an arbitrator ruled that the city's plans for staffing the schools violated its contracts with the teachers and principals unions. Much of the application's content for each schools mirrors the proposals the city released when it began preparing the schools for closure. But a separate section outlines just how changes at each school would meet federal requirements for "turnaround," the overhaul process that the city was proposing.
July 18, 2012
Union tells turnaround teachers how to return to their positions
In the days that followed an arbitrator's decision to restore teachers' jobs at so-called turnaround schools, teachers and administrators who were once told not to return received almost no guidance from the city on how to reclaim their positions. The city is appealing the arbitrator's decision in court on July 24, arguing that they will not be able to carry out rigorous reform plans for the 24 schools without first replacing many of their teachers. But until then, the staffs of those schools who would have been replaced may reclaim their positions. Yesterday evening, turnaround teachers received the first word on how to do that, in the form of an email from teachers union President Michael Mulgrew. In June, the city asked every teacher at each of the turnaround schools to reapply for their jobs and sit for interviews with a hiring committee under a contractual process called 18-D. State education officials said the city would have to use 18-D if it hoped to hit a federal quota for replacing the teachers (50 percent) and be eligible for millions of dollars in federal School Improvement Grants. The teachers union sued the city to have these plans reversed, and won. Since then, the city has seemingly balked at complying with the arbitrator's ruling. In the days that followed it, teachers said they were confused by the outcome, and administrators who led the turnaround schools until June 30 said they were still being asked to report to new assignments. Despite these complaints, yesterday city officials repeated their promise to comply with the ruling—for now.
July 6, 2012
Arbitrator: City used "circular reasoning" to justify turnarounds
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's testimony before an arbitrator drove one nail into the coffin of the city's plans to replace or rehire teachers at 24 "turnaround" schools. Last week an arbitrator determined that the city violated the city's contracts with the teachers and principals unions when it moved to replace staff members at the schools. This afternoon the arbitrator, Scott Buchheit, released a detailed explanation of why he ruled the way he did. The city was trying to use hiring procedures set for closing schools and their replacements. But the unions argued that the turnaround plans were "sham closures" that would not result in new schools. Instead, they argued, the city was unfairly using contractual provisions about "excessing" to remove teachers and administrators it deemed unsatisfactory. In upholding the unions' grievance, Buchheit at times turns Bloomberg's and other city officials' words against them. He quotes a 2011 memorandum written by the Department of Education's chief financial officer, which said, "excessing is not a permissible way to deal with unsatisfactory teachers." Yet city officials said they intended to do just that from the start of the turnaround process, Buchheit determined.
July 3, 2012
City: Turnaround staffing complaints weren't arbitrable after all
The city's case for reinstating thousands of hiring decisions at 24 struggling schools relies on the argument that an arbitrator should never have considered reversing them in the first place. Since January, the city has been trying to carry out a controversial overhaul process known as "turnaround" at the schools. To follow state and federal rules about staffing in turnaround schools, the city had to engineer what amounted to overnight school closures. But the UFT and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators argued that the changes were “sham closures” designed for political ends and so did not qualify the city to use the staffing rules it had invoked. On Friday, an arbitrator, Scott Buchheit, agreed with the unions. The city voluntarily entered into the arbitration process in May at a State Supreme Court judge's urging in order to speed the resolution of the unions' complaint. Buchheit is one of several arbitrators that the city and teachers union have jointly agreed should hear contractual disputes. But in a suite of legal papers filed late Monday, the city suggests that the Buchheit should have declined to consider the unions' complaints. The main petition says that city lawyers argued to Buchheit that he should toss out the grievances before him because the union contracts did not define closure; arbitrators are barred from superseding state laws; and the Department of Education cannot bargain away power over classroom standards. But Buchheit didn't listen, so his ruling should be overturned, the petition says.
July 15, 2010
To clear rubber rooms, city and union are settling more cases
In the hustle to clear the rubber rooms by the end of the year, the city is mainly settling with teachers charged with infractions — not firing them. Numbers released by the teachers union today show that in the last six months, the city has cleared nearly half the cases of teachers awaiting trial. The number of teachers charged with misconduct or incompetence has gone from nearly 300 to about 170 since April, when the city and union announced a deal to expedite hearings. (The city, which keeps separate records, reported slightly different numbers.) Union officials said today that most of these cases have been settled by having teachers retire, resign, or pay fines. One reason the number of settlements is on the rise is that the city has a newfound willingness to settle cases rather than take them through lengthy and costly hearings. Ridding schools of inept teachers has been a priority for the city's Department of Education, but progress has been slow and very few teachers have been successfully fired for incompetence.
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