Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring is here, fill up those personnel files!

This is the first post since the Fall, mainly because I've been so busy in my position that blogging has become impossible. However, it is that time of year when harassment picks up considerably to prepare for rating day in June. Picture a chorus of Principals led by Joel Klein singing "It's the most wonderful time of the year...." Time to put letters in files, document lateness and absences for those who are unlucky enough to be put on the Principals sh&t list. Unfortunately, I am one of those people and sure enough with the coming of Spring comes the onslaught of U observations and letters to file covering everything from being 38 seconds late (they gave the school aide a stop watch just so the administration can amuse itself watching teachers sprinting down the hall to move their cards before the bell rings) to excessive absences. Now lets see, what constitutes excessive? Well, 10 days is what we are given per year so anything above that. Right? Well, you say what if there are extenuating circumstances, like family illness or child care responsibilities that can sometimes result in more absences? Well, I was told that the Chancellor's Regs state specifically that they don't care about that (exact words used by APO) and absences will be counted as such and written up accordingly. At my school they are pouring over everyone's CAR and docking for days missed because the previous APO had a conscience and allowed for docking over time. I got hit with four days, days I'm not even sure I missed because we never, ever sign the CAR when we are absent, so they can basically say that we missed any day. Four days docked, pretty much half my paycheck. Along with a lovely letter threatening me with dismissal due to incompetence (read: U rating leading to rubber room leading to 3020A hearing). Yep, folks, its Spring. When I tried to explain my extenuating circumstances I was urged to take an unpaid leave. Unpaid. Try telling that to my landlord, Time Warner and Nanny McPhee. The bottom line is that my school could care less about the fact that I am a working mother. They will penalize me for staying home with a sick child, or having to take care of a sick parent. They will also penalize me for not being able to find adequate day care, all while they shout to the world that they are concerned about "the children". Is that all children except mine?

Yes, folks Spring is here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Games Administrators Play

Its hard coming back from a three-day weekend. Even harder when its this school. I've noticed a pattern this Fall that is quite interesting. The Principal is assigning tasks to the Guidance Staff that are tedious and time-consuming and usually wants them immediately or at the end of the day. Now that means that we become pressured and rushed, all this while kids pound on our doors, and programs are STILL being corrected. More on the programming mess in my next post. Well, some of us have families, lives. Some of us are new and can stay up until 3am (as our newest counselor did) to complete the job. Those of us who can't have started receiving "Counseling Memos" to be placed in our files. Usually it is the "veteran" counselors who are subjected to this. I wonder if there is a correlation between the assigning of impossible tasks and the resulting letters to file? It seems to be all about what the administration can get on the teacher, counselor, etc. They can even make things up! Thanks to the 2005 contract, we no longer have the right to grieve such letters and that leaves us vulnerable to lies and eventual U ratings that aren't warranted. Isn't that lovely?

This Counselor sought help from the UFT, instead of getting their support I instead got a lecture about being one minute late. I had been complaining that the Principal has an aide standing by the time clock and if you are one minute late, they mark you down. Such behavior is more than ridiculous since we are supposed professionals, yet we are being humiliated and treated like children. What did the UFT have to say? Two wrongs don't make a right, a minute is a minute.

So, classes are still a mess. The program office is understaffed and yet the Principal refuses to allow the Guidance staff to have access to the programs needed to change schedules. Like 6th graders, we are relegated to having our work "checked" by the A.P. PPS, or as I like to call her, just plan P. We must have all program changes approved and signed by her. That means she can questions every change, deny, or simply find something so that a counselor can expect a letter or memo in their mailbox the next day telling them about their incompetence and how they are "not serving the children".

In the immortal words of Charlton Heston "IT'S A MAD HOUSE, A MAD HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Yes, I'm trapped. Trapped as a Guidance Counselor in a NYC public school where the Principal has lost all common sense and while the school collapses, he only sees success. There seems to be alot of that going around these days, particularly at Tweed (how fitting the the Department of Education is housed in a building named after the most corrupt politician in NYC history, not to mention the building itself being a symbol of city government run amok). Mayor Bloomberg and his protege Mr. Klein have set out on an agenda that includes ridding the system of ANY senior staff member (senior being anyone over five years), thereby breaking the union and lowering costs. Yes folks, we work for GM. Not surprising since BloomKlein are following a corporate "let 'em eat cake" doctrine straight from the mouth of Jack Welch. The result? Many, many talented, dedicated, experienced and innocent teachers, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals being dumped into one of the city's comfortable holding cells (rubber rooms) and left there until they go crazy or are found guilty of some trumped-up charge. Still many others have suffered the fate of being ATR's, wandering the system like nomads unable to find a job while the DOE sets up Job Fairs at colleges and recruits fresh out of school personnel who will work hard, work for less and won't say much. As for the rest of us, well I would venture to guess that Klein will introduce in the next contract a layoff clause that will annihilate hundreds of teachers and other professionals. So far, the contract has protected many people, but for how long?

Take me for instance. I'm a "veteran" Guidance Counselor with 8 years in the system. My Principal has been trying to get me out of his school for years. Why? He doesn't like me, I stood up to him, I speak out against injustice. In other words, I'm a pain in the ass and he doesn't want me around. He also doesn't want to pay my salary either. So, I've endured endless harassment that includes, but is not limited to: padding my caseload with hard to work with students, overloading me with work and setting impossible to meet deadlines, writing me up for being one minute late, encouraging students and parents to write complaint letters in return for special treatment. He's also tried to label me as mentally unstable, even making up a story that I attacked a co-worker. The co-worker had no choice but to go along, after all with me out of the way it made her job that much safer. Even though seniority is becoming a thing of the past, it still determines who gets excessed. So divide and conquer. Tell the younger untenured staff that their jobs are in danger then tell them that its because of lazy, incompetent, "fat-cat" teachers and counselors that need to be expunged from the system and quicker than you can say U rating, hostile work environment that has now dominated my working life and has rendered me unable to find another position. Oh yeah, anybody out there get an interview from the "Open Market". I got one. I interviewed for five minutes with a lovely AP. The next day I found out the job had already been filled days before. They just wanted to cover themselves by interviewing this "veteran" counselor.

Its an Orwellian nightmare. The majority are staring up at that big screen, listening to Big Brother and pledging their allegiance, while a select few can see the reality. Those of us who see the lies, the overinflated grades, the "scrubbed" Regents Scores are left to the torture room. Although instead of reprogramming to accept the doctrine of "Big Brother" Mike and his sidekick Kleinboy, we are simply marked for professional death.

So this will be an account of my experiences, my frustrations and also a way to get the word out there that things are not okay in NYC Public School System. Big Brother is just telling us they are, and we had better believe him.