Parent Advocates
Search All  
Update on Retaliation Against All Whistleblowers is The Name of the Illegal Game In New York City
Re-posting my article from 2008 to include the vindication of Theresa Capra and Lennel George. In New York City, anyone who speaks out against the crimes being committed in the public school system will be attacked. We provide information about people who perpetrate crimes against honesty and integrity by harassing teachers. Betsy Combier
Retaliation Against All Whistleblowers is the Name of the Illegal Game in New York City
In New York City, anyone who speaks out against the crimes being committed in the public school system will be attacked. We provide information about people who perpetrate crimes against honesty and integrity by harassing teachers. Betsy Combier
Philip Nobile, a whistleblower of "scrubbing", or changing the grades of students taking the Regents Exams to passing when the scores were actually failing, as well as a chapter leader who rebelled against strict guidelines for teaching, was given "U" ratings by the Principal of Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Theresa Capra, in retaliation.
See his report

SEE: Brooklyn Local Superintendent and Principal Allegedly Cheated on Regents Tests, Then Vindicated After A Second Investigation

David Pakter was removed from his position at the High School of Art and Design, where he started the first and only medical illustration program - for which has has won numerous awards - in New York City, for whistleblowing tales of disorder and civil rights violations at the school. To look at
David's case, click here to read a letter he wrote to Chancellor Klein about the racial discrimination in New York public schools, and former NYCBOE Counsel Chad Vignola's response. On August 16, 2005, he was found to be "medically unfit for duty", then won an apology from the Medical Office for writing that about him, and plans to sue for defamation.

Dr. Robert Drake was removed from his school, Bronx High School of Science, by Principal Reidy after he spoke out about her "quackery" at the school and her support for "discovery" of information, or fuzzy science and math. He now teaches out of New York State, due to his being blacklisted by the NYC BOE. He was extremely popular with the students, and a Mentor...but Reidy doesn't care, and doesn't have to care.

Neil Lovinger, a special education teacher who spoke out about the deplorable conditions at MS 54 as well as a supporter of me during the period of time I was PTA President of Booker T. Washington MS 54, was accused of corporal punishment and blacklisted. Read below Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Yvonne Lewis' decision in his favor, as she describes the lies that the Booker T. Washington defendants and their Attorneys perpetrated in court in order to retaliate against him.

Neil Lovinger, Former Teacher at Booker T. Washington, Sues and Wins

Teachers Are Easily Sabotaged When a Principal Wants To Get rid of Them: La Guardia High School and Brooklyn Technical High School

The New York City BOE forces teachers out of their jobs after alleging false crimes, then, as the document faxed to former teacher Edmond Farrell ousted from John Adams High School for rebelling against "The Workshop Model of teaching, shows, that the entire process of giving a "U"as a punishment is unappealable, or permanent once the Chancellor or Superintendent says it was given to the teacher for cause. We object to this approach! Where are the constitutional rights of our citizens?

A NYC Math Teacher Fights Back After Receiving an Unfair 'Unsatisfactory' Rating from a Principal is dedicated to praising and supporting whistleblowers of the New York City Board of Education whether they be teachers, parents, or children - yes, they are speaking out too - and exposing the harassment received from the NYC BOE administration in retaliation for their honesty and integrity. We have tried to provide support for the teachers at their grievance hearings and have been screamed at and prevented from helping teachers (see Edmond Farrell's story) by Virginia Caputo and Greg Brooks, both administrators of the Office of Appeals and Reviews for the NYC BOE. We have tried, as Mr. Pakter did, to report wrongdoing in NYC schools to both Mr. Thomas Hyland and his Office of Special Investigations as well as to the Special Commissioner, Mr. Richard Condon. We have been insulted and screamed at in both these offices, and told "you better stop what you are doing".

Below are stories of several more teachers who have been subjected to career-destroying techniques by the NYC BOE in order to silence them while being forced to commit crimes. The tactic highlighted is that of giving "U" ratings unfairly to good teachers to punish them for speaking out against corruption and/or criminal activity within their school walls. This is called RETALIATION:

July 20, 2005
In Exposing a Grading Scandal, Harsh Lessons Are Learned

LATE on the morning of Feb. 10, 2004, Philip Nobile convened his class in political law at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies and started a lesson on the Constitution's system of checks and balances. In addition to the 24 students in the room, Mr. Nobile had another listener, the school's assistant principal of humanities, Theresa Capra.

During Mr. Nobile's two and a half years at the high school in Brooklyn, his relationship with the supervisor had gone from praise for his creativity and vigor to formal reprimand about his refusal to tailor lessons and test questions to her recommendations. Now that he was the chapter chair of the teachers' union, they had clashed in grievance hearings as well.

But this visit by Ms. Capra, ostensibly part of a normal process of observation and evaluation, represented a turning point. Two weeks earlier, Mr. Nobile had written a detailed memorandum to the principal, Lennel George, alerting him to a "highly anomalous" pattern of failing scores on Regents tests being raised to a passing level. The specific tests he mentioned, in global and American history, fell under Ms. Capra's oversight.

After the class that February day and a meeting the following day, Ms. Capra rated the lesson "unsatisfactory." Over the next few months, Mr. Nobile sent four more memos to the principal reiterating and amplifying his concerns that Ms. Capra had "systemically directed the changing of Regents grades." Simultaneously, he received a flurry of unsatisfactory evaluations - three from Ms. Capra and one apiece by Mr. George and Jill Bloomberg, an official in the regional Department of Education office. The groundwork, it seemed, was being laid for firing the whistle-blower.

Well, things did not turn out quite that way. Late last month, the Education Department released a 30-page, single-spaced report by a special investigator chronicling the events and concluding that Ms. Capra tampered with the Regents exams in June 2002 and June 2003, and that Mr. George "engaged in a cover-up of Mr. Nobile's allegations." Those allegations, said the report by Louis N. Scarcella, an investigator for the city school system, "have been proven correct in every detail."

(Mr. George declined to speak for this article. Ms. Capra's lawyer, Richard Guay, issued a blanket rebuttal, denying that she had harassed and unfairly evaluated Mr. Nobile, or that she had cheated or told teachers to cheat on the Regents grading.)

Ms. Capra resigned last year, during the investigation. Mr. George was recently removed as principal. Mr. Nobile, meanwhile, received a satisfactory rating for his teaching this year, and has also earned tenure. Nobody should mistake this for a happy ending. The exposure of the Cobble Hill scandal qualifies more as a cautionary tale, because Mr. Nobile's experience offers disturbing proof of the pressures that administrators can use to isolate, marginalize and oust internal critics. Moreover, Mr. Nobile's personal crusade against cheating serves as a reminder that in the current system of Regents testing, there is little self-interest in rigorous grading, if rigor means revealing widespread failure.

"I call it 'affirmative cheating,' " Mr. Nobile said of the grading on test scores. "It turns teachers into liars and hypocrites. They feel a natural sympathy with students and want to help them. And there's a desire of administrators to pump up scores to look good. And most of the teachers - especially the young, untenured, easily intimidated - simply won't come forward to complain without protection."

Indeed, the Cobble Hill scandal might well have gone undetected had Mr. Nobile not arrived at the school in September 2001 as a 59-year-old teacher with an unusual résumé. A seminarian in his youth, he had left religious life to become a journalist, writing for such publications as New Times, Esquire and The Village Voice. His muckraking efforts included reports on sexual abuse by the Rev. Bruce Ritter of Covenant House in 1990, and plagiarism charges against the "Roots" author Alex Haley in 1993. He moved into teaching - the profession of his daughter and former wife - only after falling out with the co-author of a book about Abraham Lincoln's private life.

One might think the city's public schools would cherish such a teacher. Initially, Cobble Hill did. In five evaluations during Mr. Nobile's first year, all rating him satisfactory, supervisors including Ms. Capra extolled his lessons as "well-prepared and very organized" and his classroom as a "serious learning environment."

All that started to change with Regents tests in June 2002. Even before students took the exams, Ms. Capra wrote an e-mail message to Mr. Nobile, saying of the grading procedure, "In a pinch they can get points from writing any old garbage down." She was referring to the essay portion of the exam.

In practice, as the Education Department's investigation has stated, Mr. Capra assigned teachers to reread and regrade - "scrub," in school slang - any exams that fell slightly below the passing mark of 65. Several dozen Cobble Hill pupils wound up with grades between 65 and 69 on the global and American history tests, while a handful scored between 60 and 64.

"The whole thing is a sham," a fellow teacher, Elliot Cohen, wrote to Mr. Nobile in an e-mail message. "The essays were terrible all around and received points when they should have gotten zero." Mr. Cohen also wrote that the "crimes" he and others "committed were obscene."

Early in 2003, Mr. Nobile said, he first brought up the problem with Mr. George, who responded, "I don't want to hear that." When the same pressures and the same pattern recurred in Regents tests of June 2003, Mr. Nobile took concerns to representatives of the United Federation of Teachers, who urged him to put the complaints in writing to the principal in the hope the problems could be solved internally. As late as December 2003, Mr. George rated Mr. Nobile satisfactory as a teacher.

WHICH brings this story back to Mr. Nobile's memo to the principal in January 2004, and Mr. Capra's negative evaluation of Mr. Nobile two weeks later. The succession of unsatisfactory reports that followed were only part of the administration's apparent campaign against the whistle-blower. In March 2004, Mr. George conducted brief interviews with a number of teachers - omitting two who had shared Mr. Nobile's criticism - and all of them denied any cheating had occurred. They issued the same denials early in May, when Mr. Scarcella, the investigator, questioned them.

One effect of their denials was to make Mr. Nobile look like a crank, to separate him not only from administrators but also from his faculty colleagues. Only when Mr. Scarcella conducted a second round of interrogations in June 2004, granting teachers immunity from disciplinary action, did several admit that they had cheated at Ms. Capra's behest.

Even in the fall of 2004, with Ms. Capra gone and Mr. Nobile back in satisfactory status, the apparent harassment persisted. Mr. George took Mr. Nobile out of classes in 20th-century American history, his specialty, and reassigned him to global and American survey courses for freshmen.

When Mr. Nobile asked the reason for the reassignment, he recalled the other day, Mr. George told him, "Your passing rates on the Regents aren't high."


Please NOTE: Kathy Pelles, mentioned in the article below as being part of the Cobble Hill scandal, was Principal at NYC School of the Future and a parent at PS 6 while Carmen Farina was Principal. Carmen Farina, now Deputy Chancellor of the NYC DOE, was instrumental in obtaining for Kathy her position as a regional superintendent in region 8, Brooklyn, Carmen Farina's region when she was Superintendent before being appointed Deputy Chancellor. Our question: what did Mrs. Farina know, and when was she informed of the grade changing?

Principal Hid Fraud on Tests in Brooklyn, Officials Say
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, New York Times, July 1, 2005

A Brooklyn high school principal covered up a widespread effort to inflate grades on the Regents exams in social studies in 2002 and 2003, education officials said yesterday, and he will face termination.

The principal, Lennel George of the Cobble Hill School of American Studies, was removed this week after a 14-month investigation involving state and city officials.

The authorities also said yesterday that Kathy Pelles, a local superintendent in Brooklyn responsible for supervising the school, would be formally reprimanded for failing to properly supervise the investigation into cheating allegations and for failing to promptly report the allegations.

Officials said an assistant principal had directed teachers to change failing grades to passing on dozens of exam papers.

The finding is the latest blow to the state's Regents testing system, which has been plagued by cheating and other problems. And it called into doubt the state's longstanding practice of letting schools grade their own test papers.

Earlier this week, an official in the Jericho school district on Long Island was charged with official misconduct, accused of providing his son, a student at John Glenn High School in the Elwood district, with answers to the Regents exam in global history.

Last week, state officials lowered the score needed to pass the Math B Regents exam after they said they had erred in scaling the test results and that too many students would probably fail. In recent years, there were similar problems with the Math A and physics tests.

In the Brooklyn case, an investigator for the city school system, Louis N. Scarcella, determined that the assistant principal for humanities, Theresa Capra, had directed staff members to tamper with the results for the Regents exams in global history and in American history, by raising grades on the essay portions of the exam.

In his report, Mr. Scarcella said that three teachers had admitted changing grades by engaging in a process called "scrubbing," in which grades just below the 65 passing mark are bumped up.

In some cases, teachers said that papers with grades in the low 50's with no chance of passing had also been lifted above 65. A statistical analysis by the State Education Department in April 2004 found that "the aggregation of scores assigned in the 65-69 range as compared to the 60-64 range for students of the Cobble Hill High School ... goes beyond any dispersion, magnitude or directionality that is likely attributed to chance."

According to Mr. Scarcella's report, Ms. Capra denied the allegations but refused to be interviewed during the investigation. She resigned in May 2004.

Darren Dopp, a spokesman for State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, confirmed yesterday that the case had been referred to his office and that officials were considering criminal charges against Ms. Capra. The removed principal, Mr. George, said he was fighting his dismissal but declined further comment. Efforts to reach Ms. Capra and Ms. Pelles last night were unsuccessful.

The Cobble Hill case left city and state education officials struggling to explain why the investigation took so long.

Because of the delay, at least 50 students at Cobble Hill were apparently permitted to graduate even though their Regents scores were fraudulent.

Alan Ray, a State Education Department spokesman, said the agency did not require scores to be changed unless errors were found within one year. While the department had initial statistical evidence of irregularities at Cobble Hill, the city's investigation was not concluded until last month.

At the heart of the case was Philip Nobile, a social studies teacher and the union chapter leader at the Cobble Hill School, who pressed allegations of misconduct by Ms. Capra in repeated complaints to the principal, Mr. George, and later in formal complaints to officials in both the City and State Education Departments.

Mr. Nobile passed along an e-mail exchange with Ms. Capra that took place prior to the June 2002 Regents exams in which he expressed concern that many students would fail.

Ms. Capra replied: "Let's try to focus on getting these kids a 65. Teach them to do the essays first before the multiple choice. In a pinch they can get points from writing any old garbage down."

That sentiment, while starkly put in the e-mail message, reflects an understanding among educators that they have more latitude in grading essay portions on Regents exams.

Mr. Ray said state officials routinely audited about 10 percent of Regents test papers. "We are certain that this kind of cheating is not widespread," he said.

Mr. Nobile said he saw exam grades being changed in June 2002 but did not complain to the principal until April 2003 out of concern for the teachers involved.

Mr. Nobile said that Ms. Capra retaliated against him, by giving him unsatisfactory reviews. In March 2004, he complained to state officials, who ordered the city to investigate. Around the same time, another teacher hand-delivered his own complaint to officials in Region 8 in Brooklyn, which was led at the time by Carmen Fariña, now the city's highest ranking instructional official.

Jerry Russo, a spokesman for Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, said, "While an isolated incident, this behavior is entirely unacceptable."

Mr. Nobile said city officials should do more to protect teachers who report corruption.

"The system is stacked against a whistle-blowing teacher who can be subjected to retaliation," he said.

July 6, 2005
Teacher in Regents Inquiry Got Job in School on L.I.

A former assistant principal in Brooklyn, who resigned last year while under investigation for allegations that she directed widespread cheating on the Regents exams, was hired as the head of the social studies department at a Long Island high school where she was again in charge of grading Regents exams this year.

The former assistant principal, Theresa Capra, was named last week in a report by a city schools investigator who described her as the central figure in widespread tampering with social studies Regents grades at the Cobble Hill School for American Studies in 2002 and 2003.

At her new school, Ms. Capra was responsible for supervising the administering and grading of the Regents exams in social studies even though New York State had barred her old school from proctoring or grading its own tests while the cheating inquiry was underway.

In a telephone interview last night, Ms. Capra denied any wrongdoing. "I vehemently deny all allegations," she said. "Did then, do now."

Officials at the Long Island school, H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square, and in the Sewanhaka Central High School District where Carey is located, said they were stunned to learn of the charges.

On Friday, after reading about the Brooklyn investigation in a newspaper article, the district superintendent, John Williams, said that he had asked officials at the high school to the review the results on this year's Regents exams in social studies and that they found no irregularities.

H. Frank Carey is a high-performing school where more than 90 percent of the students usually pass the Regents exams in global history and American history.

Still, Dr. Williams and the school principal, Douglas Monaghan, expressed dismay that they had not known of the allegations. They said that they planned to discuss the matter with Ms. Capra but that they had been unable to reach her.

"We clearly had no knowledge that this went on in the city before this person came to our school," Mr. Monaghan said in an interview. "Had I known what was going on, she wouldn't have been hired, that's pretty simple. I work in a situation where I expect people to have integrity."

He added, "Let's just say she will be summoned to the superintendent's office, when she gets back to town."

Lennel George, the principal of Ms. Capra's former school in Brooklyn, was removed from his post last week, and city education officials said they would seek to fire him for covering up the grade tampering. A local superintendent, Kathy Pelles, was formally reprimanded in the case for not properly supervising the principal and not promptly reporting the charges.

While the state attorney general's office has said it is considering criminal charges against Ms. Capra, no disciplinary action has been taken so far.

Ms. Capra said she had been in Las Vegas on vacation when the city released the investigator's report last week. "It's one sad lie after the next," she said. "I am a victim here. I am an unfortunate victim."

She said the allegations were trumped up by a disgruntled teacher and corroborated by others afraid of losing their jobs.

She said she resigned from the Cobble Hill School on July 1 only because she had found the new job on Long Island and wanted to get away from the controversy.

State education officials said they did not know that Ms. Capra had obtained a new job after leaving the Brooklyn school.

Alan Ray, a spokesman for the State Education Department, said, "When a person resigns in one district and leaves for another district, there is no state law requiring us to be notified by the hiring district."

New York City officials were also apparently unaware that Ms. Capra had been working in Nassau County.

Dr. Williams, the Sewanhaka superintendent, said Ms. Capra had been strongly recommended to Mr. Monaghan by the district's assistant superintendent for personnel, who recently retired. He said it was unclear whether city officials gave her any recommendations.

Mr. Monaghan, the principal, said it was common for city educators to seek jobs in the relatively higher-paying and better-performing suburban districts like Sewanhaka. But he said he wished there had been some way for state officials to alert him to the investigation of Ms. Capra.

Mr. Monaghan said he and other officials had taken test papers from the Carey school safe on Friday to examine the grading sheets. Everything appeared to be in order, he said.

In the Brooklyn case, a city investigator found that in 2002 and 2003, Ms. Capra had repeatedly directed her teachers to inflate the grades on the essay portions of the social studies exams so that students would just exceed the passing mark of 65.

Officials said there was clear evidence that failing grades had been erased. (of course they did! - Editor)

Email from David Pakter:
Re: In Exposing a Grading Scandal, Harsh Lessons Are Learned

Philip Nobile is only one of many.

We need "A Tomb for the Unknown Teachers" who also spoke out and were destroyed by the Department of Education for doing so. The following is one such story.

The number of analogies between the case of the teacher in this NY Times article today and my own pending case are too numerous to point out. The major reason he was finally vindicated by the Office of Special Investigations is because the reputations of bureaucrats outside the teacher's immediate
school district were not at risk, and in any case could always plead ignorance of the facts in the case. Even honest Investigators, and there was one in my case, are pressured not to follow up on politically sensitive cases that might embarrass the City.

One of the Special Investigators I had met with at my school site on numerous occasions told me on my cell phone one week after I was illegally removed from my school and placed in the Rubber Room, that he had been ordered to "close the book on my case". This will all emerge during Discovery and in Federal Court.

My own case involves the fact that I not only wrote to the Chancellor directly but alerted many other people with decision making power both in the region where I ran the Medical Illustration Program I created and personally financed, and also "downtown" at Maiden Lane.

My own case includes all the wrongdoing discussed in the New York Times article and much more. In fact, months before I was removed on bogus charges I had informed two separate individuals in the Office of the Special Commissioner for the New York City Dept. of Education that I had documents reflecting that teachers had been instructed and in fact ordered to inflate Regents Scores by drastic percentages. This will all emerge during Discovery when my case goes to trial.

It is no coincidence that both the former Principal and the Principal who replaced her, have retired from the system. In fact the former, called a special faculty meeting to announce her sudden retirement on Sept. 23, 2004, just 24 hours after she discovered I had evidence (now in a Bank Vault) of egregious Federal Civil Rights violations taking place in my High School.

The New York Times article, while a laudatory piece of investigative reporting, barely scratches the tip of the iceberg with respect to what happens to a teacher who in observing and documenting wrongdoing, becomes a whistleblower. My case as it unfolds in Federal Court will remind people of the case of the famous New York Police Officer, Frank Serpico, who tried to do the right thing in reporting corruption and ultimately almost died after being shot in the face in an attempted assassination (arranged by members of the NYPD).

I have already received two separate intimidating calls on my cell phone from a Special Investigator who works out of 49 Chambers Street in a building facing the Dept. of Education's palatial Headquarters located in the Tweed Building. My unlisted private cell number was only known by two individuals who work in the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation at 80 Maiden Lane.

The Investigator who placed the calls to my cell phone is a retired member of the NYPD and is reputed to still wear a gun on his ankle. Many of the Special Investigators who work for the New York Dept. of Education are ex-cops. When one of my attorneys confronted the Special Investigator about the calls made to my cell phone, amazingly he completely denied all knowledge of the calls despite the fact that his name and telephone number were logged into my cell phone's incoming call list.

As in the case of Officer Frank Serpico, in the NYPD, a person who speaks out and tries to report wrongdoing they have witnessed in the 16 Billion Dollar Dept. of Education, literally places their career if not their life in peril.

Both the NYPD and the Office of the District Attorney have refused to get involved in my case. As a prominent Labor Attorney advised me, the various City Agencies have already started to circle their wagons. He referred to the process as "closing ranks" when any Agency employee feels threatened with being publicly embarrassed.

In a desperate attempt to try to avoid facing me in a Dept. of Education Trial, known as the "3020" Process the system has recklessly started a smear campaign against me fabricating a laundry list of lies all of which will be totally discredited during Discovery in Federal Court. This deceitful campaign, to tarnish my good name, (despite the fact that I was a Teacher of the Year and personally honored by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in a City Hall ceremony), will eventually be recognized as the DOE's typical attempt at character assassination when all else fails.

This is all readily perceived in Samuel G. Freedman's excellent and groundbreaking New York Times story. But the teacher's case he exposes is only one of many- most of the time the Dept. of Education succeeds in their attempt to bury a teacher who comes forward with allegations of wrongdoing. The average teacher in New York is well aware that he is no match in a David vs. Goliath type encounter
involving the NY Dept of Education. Never in my 37 years in the field of Education have I witnessed such a climate of fear. Only a very small fraction of teachers who witness serious wrongdoing, ever report it.

The chance of surviving the storm of DOE-sponsored retaliation and harassment, that follows fast and furious on the heels of teacher whistleblowers is a price far too high for most teachers to pay. So to the great detriment of New York's one million-plus schoolchildren, the majority of New York's teachers, when faced with blatant wrongdoing, simply swallow their pride and "go along to get along".

In the case of Philip Nobile, the teacher at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies in Brooklyn, discussed by the Times reporter, Justice came late, but at least it finally came and the true guilty parties will get their just deserts.

As for myself, short of a reporter at the New York Times pursuing the facts (wherever they may lead) in my case, Justice seems an elusive thing.

I must not expect others to risk their hard-earned positions to come to my rescue. My story is the stuff of a best-selling detective saga. But that fact, ipso facto, makes most ordinary people hesitant to become involved.

The masthead at the top of The New York Times front page, for over a hundred years has carried the proud banner:


That illustrious newspaper has now scratched the surface as far as what happens to a teacher who refuses to turn a blind eye to wrong doing. A teacher who refuses to go along to get along.

Now the question is whether this great newspaper will dig behind the daily headlines and stories regarding the Dept of Education's infamous Rubber Rooms and try to find out how many dedicated teachers (and even Principals), languish in those rooms, at enormous taxpayer expense, because they had the courage to stand up and speak out against corruption.

I shall perhaps, ages and ages hence, be telling this story to a grandchild who will, wide-eyed and with all innocence ask me:

"What was it like, long ago, when you were a Teacher in New York City?"

And I shall answer, with all due humility and without regret:

'It was the best of times and the worst of times but when I finally was forced to choose between right and wrong, I did as my immigrant Father would have done - for am I not my Father's Son'."

David Pakter

David Pakter's emails and letters to legal counsel and the media about his harassment from the NYC DOE

David Pakter's letter to Chancellor Joel Klein and the response from former Counsel Chad Vignola

More letters from David Pakter naming Region 9 Superintendent Peter Heaney, Alexis Penzell, and two officials in the Special Commissioner's office as possible partners in the teacher abuse process.

Letters of support for Dr. Robert Drake, soon to be a former teacher at Bronx Science High School:

Michael Rainford
Helen Kellert
Timothy Chernyaev

June letter from Bob Drake to Principal Reidy

Testimony was given by Dr. Robert Drake to The NYC BOE Panel For Educational Policy on July 18, 2005:


My name is Dr Robert Drake, and for the last 2-1/2 years I have taught chemistry at the Bronx High School of science.
Since June 1st I have been newly diagnosed as having high blood pressure, diabetes, an ulcer, and Barrett's esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition. However, I will shortly lose my health coverage.
I have been told that effective August 7th, I will lose my job at Bronx Science, as well as my health plan, because my principal, who calls herself "Dr." Valerie Reidy, decided to give me a "U" for the year rather than an "S" that I earned the previous two years.
Since 2001 I have taught chemistry during the summer, including this summer, at Purchase College/SUNY. Last August I also taught newly hired teachers for the Department of Education at Martin Luther King Jr. High School.
I spent $6000 of my own money to retrain myself for high school teaching after teaching over 25 years at the college level.
Unlike Ms. Reidy, I have a research Ph.D. I have numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and have written two books. I have always received rave reviews for my teaching, but this year started the year on the wrong side of Ms. Reidy, for reasons I was not told. Suddenly my classroom evaluations were "unsatisfactory."
I was also removed as a college mentor for "dereliction of duty," a preposterous charge. When I refused to resign as a mentor, Ms. Reidy said, "We can do this the hard way or the easy way but I will win."
When I indicated I had been ill, Ms. Reidy stated, "I don't want excuses, Dr. Drake. If you cannot do the job I will get someone who can."
I believe that Ms. Reidy has discriminated against me because I am an older, self-confident male, who has credentials as a chemical educator. And she cannot stand people who are better educated than she is.
Rather than use my expertise Ms. Reidy marginalized my contributions to Bronx Science while she promoted the failed, discredited "pure discovery" method of teaching because she knows no better. The result is that the bright kids at Bronx Science are rarely challenged in science, and biology students sit around singing "The Circle of Life" from The Lion King, while the biology teachers are required to teach from scripts approved by her. No wonder two Yale graduates quickly came and left because they could not fathom her methods.
Ms. Reidy has also adopted the Region-1 primary-school edu-speak of the so-called Philosophy of Education, with its "learning walks" and "accountable talk," which short-change the highly motivated Bronx Science students.
Bronx Science sends 100% of its graduates to college. It ought to be looking to colleges for inspiration, not the failed administration of Region 1, with its primary school mentality.
This coming year, two of the chemistry teachers retained by Bronx Science are people who failed to pass the Chemistry CST test on one or more tries. Should the best students in the city be taught by teachers with a second-rate knowledge of chemistry?
As long as decisions in the DOE are made for political reasons and not for sound, pedagogical reasons, the NYC school system will continue to be dysfunctional, and talented, qualified teachers, like me, will be leaving the system.
It is said that "Bad money collects." But only if you let it. If you are to be truly accountable to our students you need to make sure that "U" ratings are not used as political weapons."

The way the NYC BOE works is to re-hire personnel who were "caught in the act" so that, we believe, these people already indicted for crimes and/or corruption will maintain the code of silence for the on-going illegal activity in the District offices:

For example, Bruce Irushalmi worked for the Region 1 office during the 2004-2005 school year, despite a Stancik investigation and indictment in 1992. Region 1 superintendent Irma Zardoya's office told on August 1, 2005, that Mr. Irashalmi "retired" at the end of June, 2005, and the website does not reflect this, yet.
We previously wrote:
Mr. Bruce Irushalmi is working in the Bronx, in the Region 1 Office (which oversees Bronx Science), and was found to be engaging in possibly criminal conduct when he was Executive Director of the NYCBOE Division of School Safety, as a report by Ed Stancik shows (Private Interest Over Public Trust: An Investigation Into Certain Improprieties By the Leadership At The Division of School Safety)!!!

Bruce Irushalmi is baaaack...
Learning Support Centers
Region 1
Districts: 9, 10*
Irma Zardoya, Superintendent

1 Fordham Plaza
Bronx, NY 10458

Bruce Irushalmi, Director of Student Placement, Youth and Family Support (we do not know if he assists in the getting rid of teachers in Region 1 Schools).

The battle turned public in mid-May, when staff members at Bronx Science handed out fliers and buttons outside the school that criticized the pedagogical and other policies of the principal, Valerie J. Reidy. The story then landed hard in the press, with articles like The New York Post's " 'Reign of Terror' at Bronx Science."

In the latest chapter, some Bronx Science students are rallying to Ms. Reidy's side. Forty-five students signed a letter, sent to city newspapers by Eli Aghassi, a senior, that defended the principal and questioned the claims against her.

"I wouldn't have any problems with the allegations if they had any basis in fact," Mr. Aghassi said the other day, sitting on the grass across the street from the school's main entrance.

A group of teachers have also spoken out against the allegations, creating their own fliers and writing to newspapers. "We were eyeball to eyeball several times, but I'm not one of those malcontents," said Fredric Schorr, a history teacher. "She tries her best; she's ferociously loyal to the school."

The anti-Reidy contingent, led by Robert Drake, a chemistry teacher, and Mel Maskin, a social studies teacher and the union chapter leader, contend that Ms. Reidy has driven away highly qualified teachers and that she forces science teachers to use the "pure discovery" teaching method, in which students are not supposed to read textbooks before covering topics in class.

"She doesn't know what she's doing," Dr. Drake said, alluding to the "discovery" method. "Her knowledge of science education ended when she started teaching."

As for teachers who have departed, Ms. Reidy countered: "You have a certain degree of turnover in any corporation or school." She also defended the "pure discovery" method, saying that the technique helped students and that Dr. Drake and other new teachers had agreed in writing to use it. "We're asking them to analyze," the principal said, "to look at the world in a questioning way."

Dr. Maskin, claiming that "very, very basic things are being denied," said that 25 grievances had been filed against the principal this year. In response, Ms. Reidy said that a majority of them had been filed by Dr. Maskin and Dr. Drake. "If you have a union representative who is going to take every issue to grievance rather than mediate," she said, "then of course you are going to have a large number of grievances."

The dispute has sparked considerable debate on the Bronx Science alumni e-mail group. In May, 301 messages, most about the controversy, were posted on the group's site - about as many messages as were posted in the prior eight months.

Still, many teachers just wish that the whole controversy would disappear. "If everybody taught and did what they were supposed to do," said Susan Brauerman, a biology teacher, "everything would go smoothly."

In support of Neil Lovinger, a teacher retaliated against by former Principal of Booker T. Washington MS 54 Laurence Lynch and AP Bertha McGee (who is still there), a UFT Rep wrote the following:


The first thing "they" tell you when you first get hired is "don't make waves if you want to keep your job." The old adage is not bad advice since for the first three years of your appointment many of the job protections that most teachers rely upon are not available.

One of our greatest protections, the right to a due process hearing under Education Law §3020-a, is not available. This hearing requires that the DOE establish grounds to discipline a teacher. Non-tenured teachers can be dismissed without the DOE establishing grounds.

All is not doom and gloom, however, if certain procedures are diligently followed. A recent case,Lovinger v. New York City Department of Education, decided April 27, 2005 illustrates how non-tenured teachers can protect themselves.

First, some background.
Neil Lovinger was appointed as a special education teacher from October 1998 to June 2001 at MS 54, also known as the Booker T. Washington School. While on probation he resigned his position in order to relocate to California but came back to New York in November 2002 to care for his elderly mother. When he applied to be rehired by the DOE he learned, for the first time, that he was placed on the ineligible list as a result of having been found guilty of committing corporal punishment.

As a resigned probationer he was not entitled to a dismissal hearing but pursuant to the Chancellor's Regulations, C-31, he was entitled to a hearing to determine his eligibility and to have his license and teaching certificate restored.

The hearing was held on August 5, 2003 and according to Lovinger there was much wrong with the process he was subjected to.

Lovinger claimed that the underlying facts do not constitute the infliction of corporal punishment. In April 2001, a piece of chalk unintentionally flew out of his hand and hit a student's lip during class. Assistant principal Bertha McGee informed Lovinger that the incident had been determined to have been accidental and would not be pursued. Neither he nor the student was removed from the classroom, and the matter was never again mentioned to him.

Additionally, Lovinger never received notice-written or oral-of an investigation, hearing, or its results in California or at his parents' home where he had resided prior to relocation. He was never interviewed by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and none of the students, including the alleged victim, or the teacher's aide who was present during the incident, or Assistant principal Bertha McGee were produced at the hearing.

Of twelve students in the class, only the alleged victim, another who said that he was talking to the victim, and did not see if the chalk was thrown intentionally, and a third who said that he didn't see anything were interviewed. The investigative report was silent vis-à-vis the teacher's aide. An investigator other than the one who actually conducted the investigation testified at the hearing at the hearing, Principal Lynch admitted to having given Mr. Lovinger a satisfactory rating despite the allegation of corporal punishment. It is also to be noted that a required A-420/A-421 form, "Alleged Corporal punishment and/or verbal abuse report of investigation," was never produced at the hearing or provided to Mr. Lovinger.
Despite these points the DOE hearing officer sustained the denial of his application to restore his license. Thereupon Lovinger filed a special proceeding in court known as an Article 78. An Article 78 is a provision of the law which permits public employees (and others) the right to petition the court to reverse public employers' decisions. When used for employment decisions the courts must be convinced that the public employer was acting arbitrary and capricious or in bad faith in order for the public employee to prevail. This is a difficult hurdle, but not insurmountable.

Justice Yvonne Lewis of the Brooklyn Supreme Court found the DOE's procedure so lacking in fairness she ordered that a new hearing be held. In her decision she wrote:

"The wrinkle-as raised by the petitioner's protestations-is that the foundation on which the Chancellor has sought to pillar those reasons (i.e., his decision) is so unsettling that, if true, cannot be permitted to stand on due process and/or public policy grounds. In other words, this court would be constrained to find as unacceptably violative of due process and common-sense fair play the result herein had if indeed it was arrived at solely by virtue of 1. the hearsay statements of impressionable children which were not recorded, videotaped, contemporaneously reduced to writing, and/or subject to cross-examination. [In this regard, the court is also mindful that no clarification was contained in the papers submitted by either side to elucidate what "special education" signified in the context of these particular children, taking into consideration whether they were questioned individually or collectively, by leading or open ended questions, etc.]; 2. the uncharged, undocumented prior instances of similar violent conduct attributed to the petitioner which were herethereto ignored by school officials but allowed as hearsay evidence without benefit of cross examination; 3. the absence of documentation that is mandated by the investigatory protocols established by the Department of Education (eg., notice letter, incident forms, etc.) with no adequate explanation and/or the imposition of at least some sort of adverse inference in favor of the petitioner; and, 4. the imputation of a statement to the accused petitioner in the presence of a UFT representative who both disavow the occurrence and were unknown to each other. Certainly, the just mentioned factors raise grave concerns of due process violations that cannot be disregarded without further clarification. For this reason, this court finds that the matter must be reconsidered by the Chancellor after remission to the Department of Education for a reconstituted hearing that is consonant with the due process considerations afore highlighted. Any review as to the adequacy of the remedy imposed is contingent on the outcome of a valid hearing, and must therefore be held in abeyance."

While this is a significant victory for Neil Lovinger there are certain lessons to be learned. Obviously, the situation would be entirely different if Lovinger were dismissed for the corporal punishment. If he were, he could only challenge his dismissal in an Article 78 proceeding where he would need to show his termination was arbitrary, capricious and in bad faith. Additionally there is a very short, 4 month statute of limitations for which he would be required to commence his proceeding in court.

This statute of limitation is not extended while his C-31 hearing is scheduled. In fact most probationers who are terminated are lulled by the appeal process into believing that their time to commence a case in court is extended while they fight their C-31 appeal. Not true! The C-31 hearing has its own 4 month statute of limitation which is usually commenced when you are notified of the finding.
The bottom line is don't delay. Speak to someone with knowledge of these technical requirements. Don't rely on "they."

Teacher response to U ratings as punishment on the New York Teachers Chatboard:


More teachers get low marks
Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Nearly 1,000 city teachers were flunked by their principals this year - a 40% leap from last year - after orders from Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to weed out incompetents.

Klein had chided principals for dumping their lousy teachers on other schools, rather than giving them low marks on evaluations. "Someone who is not good enough to work with your students is not good enough to work with any other students," Klein wrote in an E-mail to principals last summer.

Principals often make quiet deals with bad teachers, promising them a satisfactory rating in their annual review if they agree to transfer. Last year, 679 teachers got failing grades; this year the number rose to 988, according to the Education Department. But the spike in bad grades is a sign of bad management, not flawed teachers, charged United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Klein's chronic threats to teachers have lead to painfully low morale, she said. "The overheated rhetoric has just created a huge gulf between teachers and the Bloomberg administration," she said.

Jacqueline Rodriguez, a Spanish teacher at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, was in tears when she received a career-blowing grade for frequent absences. The rookie was out with the flu for 17 days, which doctor's notes proved, she said. "The Education Department doesn't care about us. They want virtual slaves," Rodriguez said.

Weingarten wondered why more teachers were being punished when there were across-the-board gains in elementary school reading scores. "Teachers did a great job this year. I don't get it," she said.

© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation