Chief Leader Covers NYC Discontinued Teacher Epidemic

Taking it to the streets

Taking it to the streets

Although Dan Rosenblum at the Chief Leader could not realistically touch up on all the stories of the many who contacted him, he did capture a snapshot of what is going on out there. He shares two stories, but there are literally over 700 with one being worse and more horrible than the next.

The UFT stated there were 186 discontinuances in the 2013-2014 school year, but a Freedom of Information Request response from the DOE indicated there were 216 during the first year of Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina. To compare, the Bloomberg administration discontinued about 225 a year.

As UFT Solidarity looks to help see these many teachers get back to the profession they love, we are seeing little to no movement from the UFT -DOE meetings.

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‘Discontinued’ Teachers Still Asking To Be Reinstated to Classroom Duty

Posted: Monday, May 18, 2015 5:00 pm

By DAN ROSENBLUM | 0 comments

Elizabeth Puscasu, a Teacher for more than a decade, said that her two teaching licenses and two master’s degrees didn’t stop her from being discontinued as a Teacher in Bushwick last summer.

She was granted tenure in elementary education, but hadn’t yet gotten it under her ESL license when she began teaching at I.S. 291 in March 2014. Though she was given a one-year probationary period, she said her Superintendent told her three months in that she would be discontinued.

She was rated as “ineffective,” though she said her students showed steady growth. She claimed that advocating for more information about her curriculum was the basis for her termination. Her elementary-education tenure status was removed when she didn’t renew her certificate.

‘Truly Disheartening’

“I worked extremely hard to get my licenses, and to lose it all at the drop of a hat is truly disheartening and depressing,” said Ms. Puscasu, who is planning to return to teaching.

She is one of hundreds of Teachers each year who are given a “probationary discontinuance,” which is issued to non-tenured educators who are deemed to be continuously ineffective or have disciplinary issues. As a recent state law extends probationary periods to four years, a group of educators has said that many asked to leave the classroom before earning tenure are being held in limbo and wait for a long appeals process before they find out whether they can return.

Calling it a “hidden epidemic,” the corps of Teachers and their supporters have rallied at the Department of Education offices and at Panel for Education-Policy meetings to advocate for policy changes. Many of them said they were disciplined for political or bureaucratic reasons, which due-process rules are supposed to help prevent. (Tenured educators are generally placed in the Absent Teacher Reserve while they await hearings.)

‘We Need a Bridge’

Francesco Portelos, one of the organizers, said roughly 200 Teachers were discontinued each year. He said those Teachers should not be “problem-coded,” making it unlikely they’ll be hired again in city schools, that hearings should be expedited and that the job-seekers shouldn’t have to wait for a nomination letter from a Principal to be eligible to be rehired in the five boroughs. “We need to put a bridge over there and not put an obstacle,” he said.

He said that some of the same disciplinary philosophies, holdovers from the Bloomberg administration, were still felt by officials. The United Federation of Teachers and the DOE began to meet with them after they pushed the issue, he said, but they still await updates.

As the state begins to retool Teacher evaluations, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have said they want to get poorly-rated Teachers out of the classroom.

“Since April [2014], we have helped 291 Teachers who we believe should not be in the profession move out of the profession, and we will continue to apply that approach consistently,” the Mayor said in March.

Some Choose to Quit

Discontinuances have declined over five years by 43 percent, to 187 in the 2013-14 school year, according to the UFT. Though a small portion of more than 80,000 pedagogical staff, Mr. Portelos, who is tenured, estimated that many resigned rather than be officially discontinued. Over a six-year period ending in the last school year, 12,294 Teachers resigned, compared to 1,560 discontinuances.

Teachers are supposed to get at least 30 days’ notice and the UFT assigns an advocate to represent them, according to the union. When Principals extend Teachers’ probation period, the union supplies lawyers to read over the paperwork.

Still, some say they felt lost in the bureaucracy. Steven Mollette is a long-term substitute in Westchester County after he was discontinued from his Bronx school, which he said was mostly for a brief attendance issue. Though he said some Teachers don’t belong in the classroom, he’s frustrated at waiting a year for a hearing. “The bottom line is that there is a due process and you’re telling me I’m getting discontinued, but yet you’re telling me I can’t even work?”

‘Getting Rid of Good Ones’

Though his evaluations could have been better, he said he didn’t get needed support, his students were improving and he’d shared a good rapport with parents. “It’s sad, because you’re getting rid of good Teachers,” he said.

A DOE spokesman said the due-process rights are available for Teachers wishing to challenge tenure-related decisions and that the department’s goal was to ensure students get good instruction and high standards.

“The DOE is committed to ensuring that all of our students are taught by high-quality Teachers,” said Jason Fink.

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RELATED: NYC Educator Groups Rally in Solidarity to Support Hundreds Unfairly Fired Teachers

NEED HELP? FOLLOW OUR NYC DISCONTINUED TEACHERS GUIDE HERE: uftsolidarity.org/discontinued

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