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Banne'd
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NEW YORK – Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that's what they want to do.
Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its "rubber rooms" — off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.
The 700 or so teachers can practice yoga, work on their novels, paint portraits of their colleagues — pretty much anything but school work. They have summer vacation just like their classroom colleagues and enjoy weekends and holidays through the school year.
"You just basically sit there for eight hours," said Orlando Ramos, who spent seven months in a rubber room, officially known as a temporary reassignment center, in 2004-05. "I saw several near-fights. `This is my seat.' `I've been sitting here for six months.' That sort of thing."
Ramos was an assistant principal in East Harlem when he was accused of lying at a hearing on whether to suspend a student. Ramos denied the allegation but quit before his case was resolved and took a job in California.
Because the teachers collect their full salaries of $70,000 or more, the city Department of Education estimates the practice costs the taxpayers $65 million a year. The department blames union rules.
"It is extremely difficult to fire a tenured teacher because of the protections afforded to them in their contract," spokeswoman Ann Forte said.
City officials said that they make teachers report to a rubber room instead of sending they home because the union contract requires that they be allowed to continue in their jobs in some fashion while their cases are being heard. The contract does not permit them to be given other work.
Ron Davis, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, said the union and the Department of Education reached an agreement last year to try to reduce the amount of time educators spend in reassignment centers, but progress has been slow.
"No one wants teachers who don't belong in the classroom. However, we cannot neglect the teachers' rights to due process," Davis said. The union represents more than 228,000 employees, including nearly 90,000 teachers.
Many teachers say they are being punished because they ran afoul of a vindictive boss or because they blew the whistle when somebody fudged test scores.
"The principal wants you out, you're gone," said Michael Thomas, a high school math teacher who has been in a reassignment center for 14 months after accusing an assistant principal of tinkering with test results.
City education officials deny teachers are unfairly targeted but say there has been an effort under Mayor Michael Bloomberg to get incompetents out of the classroom. "There's been a push to report anything that you see wrong," Forte said.
Some other school systems likewise pay teachers to do nothing.
The Los Angeles district, the nation's second-largest school system with 620,000 students, behind New York's 1.1 million, said it has 178 teachers and other staff members who are being "housed" while they wait for misconduct charges to be resolved.
Similarly, Mimi Shapiro, who is now retired, said she was assigned to sit in what Philadelphia calls a "cluster office." "They just sit you in a room in a hard chair," she said, "and you just sit."
Teacher advocates say New York's rubber rooms are more extensive than anything that exists elsewhere.

Teachers awaiting disciplinary hearings around the nation typically are sent home, with or without pay, Karen Horwitz, a former Chicago-area teacher who founded the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse. Some districts find non-classroom work — office duties, for example — for teachers accused of misconduct.
New York City's reassignment centers have existed since the late 1990s, Forte said. But the number of employees assigned to them has ballooned since Bloomberg won more control over the schools in 2002. Most of those sent to rubber rooms are teachers; others are assistant principals, social workers, psychologists and secretaries.
Once their hearings are over, they are either sent back to the classroom or fired. But because their cases are heard by 23 arbitrators who work only five days a month, stints of two or three years in a rubber room are common, and some teachers have been there for five or six.
The nickname refers to the padded cells of old insane asylums. Some teachers say that is fitting, since some of the inhabitants are unstable and don't belong in the classroom. They add that being in a rubber room itself is bad for your mental health.
"Most people in that room are depressed," said Jennifer Saunders, a high school teacher who was in a reassignment center from 2005 to 2008. Saunders said she was charged with petty infractions in an effort to get rid of her: "I was charged with having a student sit in my class with a hat on, singing."
The rubber rooms are monitored, some more strictly than others, teachers said.
"There was a bar across the street," Saunders said. "Teachers would sneak out and hang out there for hours."
Judith Cohen, an art teacher who has been in a rubber room near Madison Square Garden for three years, said she passes the time by painting watercolors of her fellow detainees.
"The day just seemed to crawl by until I started painting," Cohen said, adding that others read, play dominoes or sleep. Cohen said she was charged with using abusive language when a girl cut her with scissors.
Some sell real estate, earn graduate degrees or teach each other yoga and tai chi.
David Suker, who has been in a Brooklyn reassignment center for three months, said he has used the time to plan summer trips to Alaska, Cape Cod and Costa Rica. Suker said he was falsely accused of throwing a girl's test sign-up form in the garbage during an argument.
"It's sort of peaceful knowing that you're going to work to do nothing," he said.
Philip Nobile is a journalist who has written for New York Magazine and the Village Voice and is known for his scathing criticism of public figures. A teacher at Brooklyn's Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Nobile was assigned to a rubber room in 2007, "supposedly for pushing a boy while I was breaking up a fight." He contends the school system is retaliating against him for exposing wrongdoing.
He is spending his time working on his case and writing magazine articles and a novel. "This is what happens to political prisoners throughout history," he said, alluding to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. "They put us in prison and we write our `Letter From the Birmingham Jail.'"
 

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Desert Racing Widow
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If they had the arbitrators work more days, they could pay their salaries with the teachers/administrators that get canned. Dumbest thing I ever read. Arbitrators only work 5 days a month? Get more arbitrators in there to get the teachers off the payroll or back to work. I'm not saying the union is not a huge problem, but there has to be a hearing before you can fire someone. It's the hearing that is not happening. That is why there are so many on the payroll still.
 

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I know WTF?... they can use some of the $65 million a year they are wasting and hire more arbitrators so they can get their hearing quicker..... and get a resolution faster.

typical....:|err

If they had the arbitrators work more days, they could pay their salaries with the teachers/administrators that get canned. Dumbest thing I ever read. Arbitrators only work 5 days a month? Get more arbitrators in there to get the teachers off the payroll or back to work. I'm not saying the union is not a huge problem, but there has to be a hearing before you can fire someone. It's the hearing that is not happening. That is why there are so many on the payroll still.
 

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If they had the arbitrators work more days, they could pay their salaries with the teachers/administrators that get canned. Dumbest thing I ever read. Arbitrators only work 5 days a month? Get more arbitrators in there to get the teachers off the payroll or back to work. I'm not saying the union is not a huge problem, but there has to be a hearing before you can fire someone. It's the hearing that is not happening. That is why there are so many on the payroll still.

Why do we need hearings to fire a teacher? As you know, in the private sector if your not doing your job well or some other infraction an employer is free to terminate the employee. Please explain to me the difference between public and private employees work expectations. If you don't believe me there are a number of unemployed peeps here on PB that can attest to this.
 

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Unhyphenated American
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If they had the arbitrators work more days, they could pay their salaries with the teachers/administrators that get canned. Dumbest thing I ever read. Arbitrators only work 5 days a month? Get more arbitrators in there to get the teachers off the payroll or back to work. I'm not saying the union is not a huge problem, but there has to be a hearing before you can fire someone. It's the hearing that is not happening. That is why there are so many on the payroll still.

How is it that people always say the union as if it is a separate entity from the people it represents. The union is the people. It is voted in to represent them and its officials are members of the work force it represents that have been voted in to the position. When a group of workers organize a union all of the sudden the union is to blame? What huge problem is it that union is in this situation? They keep the people employed while the school district takes way to long to hear the cases? Would it be fair for someone to be off of work with no pay for three year while they wait to have a case that may not have merit ?
 

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Unhyphenated American
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Why do we need hearings to fire a teacher? As you know, in the private sector if your not doing your job well or some other infraction an employer is free to terminate the employee. Please explain to me the difference between public and private employees work expectations. If you don't believe me there are a number of unemployed peeps here on PB that can attest to this.

Because they are protected by a contract. Contract is contract wether the employer is public or private.
 

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Unhyphenated American
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I know WTF?... they can use some of the $65 million a year they are wasting and hire more arbitrators so they can get their hearing quicker..... and get a resolution faster.

typical....:|err



Bingo, more efficient due process would fix the whole issue!
 

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Desert Racing Widow
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Because they are protected by a contract. Contract is contract wether the employer is public or private.
Exactly, and their contract is with the school board (community), not the principal.
 

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Living in a cage of fear
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What does the contract say about arbitration time frames?
Or did I miss it?
 

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I read this earlier today. Sad situation. Whom ever is participating in this fiasco should be publically humiliated, dragged out into the streets and made to face those who are being cheated. The state of NY should be ashamed. All these so called professionals are nothing more then professional crooks. I can't imagine collecting a paycheck as a teacher for seven years while dicking around all day. Can't they find another job? They are just as much to blame after a few weeks as the union and school district.
 

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Unhyphenated American
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I read this earlier today. Sad situation. Whom ever is participating in this fiasco should be publically humiliated, dragged out into the streets and made to face those who are being cheated. The state of NY should be ashamed. All these so called professionals are nothing more then professional crooks. I can't imagine collecting a paycheck as a teacher for seven years while dicking around all day. Can't they find another job? They are just as much to blame after a few weeks as the union and school district.

You are mistaken, they are afforded due process by their contract. It is not the responsibility of the employee to administer due process in a timely manner. There fore the only entity to blame is the school district for lack of ability to process complaints against a teacher. A complaint that may have no merit. So why should they seek another means of employment when they have not been given a chance to disprove any allegations? Simply because you think so?
 

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Because they are protected by a contract. Contract is contract wether the employer is public or private.


Most contracts outline acceptable job performance and establishes a means of rating job performance, or did the Union conveniently leave that part out.
 

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You are mistaken, they are afforded due process by their contract. It is not the responsibility of the employee to administer due process in a timely manner. There fore the only entity to blame is the school district for lack of ability to process complaints against a teacher. A complaint that may have no merit. So why should they seek another means of employment when they have not been given a chance to disprove any allegations? Simply because you think so?
I stated my opinion so there is no way I could be mistaken.

So I can conclude that in your opinion, 4th generation welfare recipients and Illegals who abuse our public assistance programs and any other is all good and fine because that's the way it is set up.
 

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Unhyphenated American
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I stated my opinion so there is no way I could be mistaken.

So I can conclude that in your opinion, 4th generation welfare recipients and Illegals who abuse our public assistance programs and any other is all good and fine because that's the way it is set up.
No sir, it not the same thing. These people have been accused of a wrong doing and not been given due process.
 

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Unhyphenated American
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They usually do leave those sections omitted from there contracts.
They absolutely do not leave these out. But all claims have to be proven instead of accusation. There is usually a very specific process including warnings, write up, suspensions and termination.
 

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They absolutely do not leave these out. But all claims have to be proven instead of accusation. There is usually a very specific process including warnings, write up, suspensions and termination.


Agreed, if the process is being followed what is the need of a hearing?

Proven? I still don't understand how union employment is not "at will of the employer". This is a consideration that is not given to the private employee. Additionally, with these union rules it's no wonder that some teachers are kept on the job when they are not performing. It's just plain wrong. Maybe if teachers and other public workers were held to the same standards as workers in the private sector we might accomplish more with fewer employees.
 

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Unhyphenated American
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Agreed, if the process is being followed what is the need of a hearing?

Proven? I still don't understand how union employment is not "at will of the employer". This is a consideration that is not given to the private employee. Additionally, with these union rules it's no wonder that some teachers are kept on the job when they are not performing. It's just plain wrong. Maybe if teachers and other public workers were held to the same standards as workers in the private sector we might accomplish more with fewer employees.
Its not a matter of union "rules" there are no union rules. Only a contract ratified by both parties. There is no such thing as at will when a contract is involved. Private union workers are afforded the same rights under contract as public workers. A contract through an organized labor union supersedes all local and federal labor law as the contract upon which both parties agreed upon is the only binder for employment. Both sides have to hold up their end of the contract or face the consequences.
As I stated before a contract is a contract be it with a private party or a public entity.
 

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What are you, new?;). Of course they are not at will employees. They need a GOOD reason to give them the boot. That's the contract for you. To protect the lazy and abusers.

I have read a few of the negotiated contracts. You know, for laughs. ;) A decent employee doesn't need half the protection afforded under the contract.

Thats ok we the stupid taxpayer will pick the tab

Agreed, if the process is being followed what is the need of a hearing?

Proven? I still don't understand how union employment is not "at will of the employer". This is a consideration that is not given to the private employee. Additionally, with these union rules it's no wonder that some teachers are kept on the job when they are not performing. It's just plain wrong. Maybe if teachers and other public workers were held to the same standards as workers in the private sector we might accomplish more with fewer employees.
 

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Unhyphenated American
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Agreed, if the process is being followed what is the need of a hearing?

Proven? I still don't understand how union employment is not "at will of the employer". This is a consideration that is not given to the private employee. Additionally, with these union rules it's no wonder that some teachers are kept on the job when they are not performing. It's just plain wrong. Maybe if teachers and other public workers were held to the same standards as workers in the private sector we might accomplish more with fewer employees.

Sorry Jake I forgot to answer the actual question. The need for a hearing was agreed upon by both parties under the contract.:)hand
 
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