Sunday, May 18, 2008

Appeal Denied--Hindsight is 20/20

I have received a letter signed by the “Deputy Chancellor of Teaching and Learning (as designee for Joel I. Klein Chancellor)” which reads as follows:

April 29, 2008

“Please be advised that the appeal of Ms. Moriah Untamed from the rating of ‘Unsatisfactory’ for the period ending June 2007 has been denied and the said rating is sustained as a consequence of refusal to adequately plan and deliver instruction.”

I have not yet given a detailed description of the closing arguments and some of the questions put to me by the “Chancellor’s Committee Chairperson”.

I had originally planned to write a very close rendition of the entire hearing for the use of others who will be going into one of these hearings for the first time. I would have appreciated being able to read more about the process before I had to go through it. I know every hearing is different, but knowledge is power. That’s one of the reasons why I became a teacher. Knowledge is Power.

However, that was last year, and I haven’t even begun to write about this year—which is almost over.

So let’s just say, that by closing arguments, the die is cast. I think it will be more useful at this point for other teachers to know what I would have done in hindsight (20/20).

1. I spent hours writing responses to all my U-rated lessons. I posted these responses in August of 2007 at the beginning of this blog. They were the reason I began this blog. NONE OF MY RESPONSES WERE ENTERED INTO EVIDENCE. Principal P. faxed the Observations written by her and her assistant principals, but my responses were not included. My representative did have copies of my responses and alluded to some of the points I had made, but this was all done verbally, and couldn’t possibly compare to my detailed written responses.

Always write responses to U-rated observations and to any letters in your file. Get help if need be to write these responses in a way that refutes anything that could used against you in a U-rating hearing.

Before the hearing ask your UFT hearing representative:
“At what point in the hearing will my responses be entered into evidence “ ?

2. I spent weeks during the summer of 2007 and hours before the actual hearing organizing evidence that would refute their charges.

I not only had my lesson plans for the lessons that had been U-rated, I had them for the whole year. After October of 2006, all of them had been read and approved by my Assistant Principal in weekly meetings with me.

I had a student’s journal that contained the daily objectives and notes for the entire year –September through June. They provided evidence that I had really taught the lessons represented in my lesson plans.

I had student work samples that came out of many different lessons (Especially hands-on inquiry labs) in addition to the work resulting from the U-rated lessons.

I insisted on entering the student work samples into evidence during my closing. The Chairperson grudgingly took some lesson plans and artifacts—including the student’s science journal. He didn’t look happy about it.


Always keep a copy of representative student work that results from your lessons—especially those that have been observed. Get them right away. Make copies. Get students and parents to sign statements that give you permission to use the examples of excellent student work. Make sure that every page is dated. If you are being seriously targeted, get everything notarized.

Ask your UFT hearing representative: “When will I be able to enter my lesson plans and student work samples into evidence?”

3. I was informed on several occasions by different representatives of the UFT that the U-rating hearing was just a formality and that very few people win.


Make it clear in a nice way to the person who will be representing you that no matter how much of a done deal this hearing might be, you want to make it as hard as possible for them to find against you. In fact, you want to make it so hard that they could be held legally accountable somewhere down the line.

Don’t disrespect or piss off your UFT representative. He is not out to get you. But he is not a lawyer. Get the most you can out of him. Talk to a real lawyer if you want, but don’t advertise the fact that you did. You can present any ideas suggested by the real lawyer as your own.

Get in touch with others who have already been through U-rating hearings. Pump them for information. What would they have done differently? How could they have improved their defense?

Remember, you are trying to make it a criminal offense to find you guilty.


Chaz said...

Sorry you lost but I did tell you in one of your previous posts that only 2 out of 100 win. It's a stacked deck against the teacher.

I know a teacher who received a letter-to-the-file and a "U" rating because of an incident in the school. The teacher grieved it and win in arbitration and had the letter thrown out. The teacher then followed up on the "U" rating appeal and an "F" status principal ruled against the teacher.

You can just scratch your head on the rationale of upholding the "U" rating. The "F" status principal said "Even if the incident didn't happen the way it was written up, the teacher shouldn't have allowed the incident to happen".

Anonymous said...

U rating appeal review is a farce. It really does not matter what you did or what you did not do at the review, a teacher will lose.
The only place you have chance of finding some degree of justice is to take your principal and DoE to court, then taking civil action carries the risk of ending your teacher career, well, it is a career ender, besides the time and money are needed to carry the lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

I try to be cautious about my language and how I use it/direct it toward my students, let I be open to misinterpretation by my less than average students. Basically, it boils down to the fact that I am in your ball park as well....I remember bouffant hair in junior high and using at least 1/3 of a can of hair spray every day. Then here were those ridiculous bows with hair clips that separated your bangs from the first layer of teased hair on top of your head.

I do not share a great deal of who I am with children or staff these days, other than trusted friends, and not in the department in which I teach. I try to keep controversial views to myself and want less and less to do with anything union, since the UFT is that in name only. I try to travel in my own bubble, which is quite difficult unless one dissociates slightly to get through a day with an AP who's a good DOE soldier. She knows "policy" and not much else, and is not from the warm and fuzzy crowd. It is sad that at this time in your career you are being called into question for some ridiculous trumped up garbage instead of being able to have ACADEMIC FREEDOM and be the brilliant person you appear to be as I read your blog. Thank you for resuming your postings, by the way. I do understand how easily we can lose faith. I do not recognize this country any more either, to echo what you wrote in the post before your short but noticeable hiatus. BloomKlein is wreaking upon us the same "shock and awe" the US wreaked upon Iraq too many years ago. It's just done through different mechanisms. And yes, our government has given way to corporate fascism, and no longer believes in its original purpose. I have faith that you will persevere because you so outshine your adversaries in so many ways, and you sound strong and confident. I say to myself when I go to work now, "It's not me, it's them." It is them, believe me. Rationalthought and reason no longer prevail in the alternate reality of the DOE.

Anonymous said...

Whoops I was confusing you with another blogger, "Under Assault". Thanks for sharing this unfortunate series of circumstances with your readers; I still say you will outlast your adversaries.

moriah said...

Yes, Chaz, everybody told me that I wouldn't win. It was still a blow to get that letter. All I can say is, this is still a public school system, not a private corporation. There must be some way to hold these people accountable when they find you guilty despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Anon 8:44, I guess I have to take the attitude that it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Anon 11:41, what a beautiful comment. It's a shame it wasn't meant for me, but I agree that Under Assult deserves it more.

Anonymous said...

Moriah, you are a great science teacher...I give you the same compliment as "Under Assault" and wish YOU were my kid's science teacher. My kid is in a school in an area where they just aren't doing this wholesale to teachers, and that teacher is a senior teacher also "in the ballpark" but not working overly hard,not one iota as hard as you do on a daily basis. Yes, I just try to "fly under the radar" and "play the game". By the way, it is the middle of the night and waking up at this time occasionally gives me inspiration...I hope you can maintain your perspective throughout your journey deeper into the Kafkaesque world in which we attempt to work and survive.

moriah said...

Anon 3:03 AM

I've had those three o'clock in the morning inspriation times myself. I hope it was fruitful.

Thanks for the engcouragement.

Anonymous said...

It's too late to file an appeal now with the Commissioner of Education, since you're past the 30-day Statute of Limitations. Have you seriously considered filing an appeal with the NYS Supreme Court under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Laws and Rules? Those types of actions have a 4-month Statute of Limitations.