Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bouncing off the Walls

Perusing the quirky Life in the Rubber Room blog sent me to an article about (What else?) the rubber room, and Georgia Argyris, a young teacher caught in its clutches. It chronicles her misadventures as she lingers there.

For those who haven't heard, New York City sends teachers awaiting or facing charges to places called "rubber rooms" where they wait and see what will (or will not) happen to them.

Theoretically, teachers must be charged within six months. If not, they must be returned to the classroom. That was not the case with Ms. Argyris, and I'm told it's often not the case at all:

Meanwhile, she passed her sixth-month mark in the rubber room without charges, but that milestone didn't, as her contract promised, put her back in a classroom. Instead, the UFT told her to keep showing up.

Now, let's not jump all over UFT leadership for failing to enforce its own contract. After all, they were embroiled in contract negotiations designed specifically to relieve rubber rooms. As a direct result, city teachers can now be suspended for months based on unsubstantiated allegations. However, despite their great enthusiasm for the contract that provided that option, the UFT seems to no longer care for it:

The union, meanwhile, says that the rubber room system is preferable to the alternative: suspending teachers without pay until their cases were adjudicated. "There would be even more delays. Cases would drag on forever," Weingarten says. "We want these cases dealt with as soon as possible and not delayed for months and months . . . More than three years ago, I proposed creating a super-arbitrator system to clear the backlog of cases. The DOE rejected that."

Gee, that sounds like a good idea. If only we had someone who'd negotiate contracts rather than taking whatever came down the pike and declaring, "That oughta be good enough. If only someone had stood up and said, "City teachers, like all Americans, are innocent until proven guilty."

But I digress. Read the article and feel free to comment here. There are several curious factors in Ms. Argyris' case:

1. The principal who charged her ended up rescinding her allegations.

2. Ms. Argyris, for some reason, managed to be absent 65 times in 18 months.

3. Ms. Argyris made a deal to pay $2,500 and accept dismissal if she accumulated 55 more minutes of tardiness (She did and was fired). However, she was told she'd be fired if she didn't accept the deal.

So there you have it. A teacher is charged with something no one even says she did anymore, and is fired as a result of a deal she made, under obvious duress, after sitting in purgatory for 18 months. Don't you think an 18-month stay in the rubber room would cause most people to consider deals not in their interest?

Why on earth can't the DoE make charges immediately rather than waiting 6 months? Could you imagine what this country would be like if the police could dump you in a room and wait six months before even revealing why you were arrested?

For a lot of people in rubber rooms, it's no problem at all.
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