Monday, November 29, 2021

Those Zany DOE Investigators and Their Wacky Antics

One great benefit of tenure is you are not compelled to answer the people DOE sends to talk to you. While you can refuse them outright, they just go on without you. You can, however, demand representation before speaking with them.

There are a whole lot of people in suits who come from the DOE, or claim to be independent. They seem to be very knowledgeable about the perfidy of teachers, and are expert on all the awful things your colleagues appear to have perpetrated. Hey, they could be telling the truth, but who really knows?

For me, the problem with SCI, or OEO, or any of the groups that are either affiliated or semi-affiliated with the DOE is they don't have much to show in the way of integrity. There are rules they're supposed to follow. For example, they have time limits in which to bring charges. I have never seen OEO bring charges in a timely fashion. This is ridiculous, because when the principal needs to investigate for a letter in file, he can do so within days. OEO can't do it in six months, and often takes years. Because they can no longer issue file letters, they issue "non-file letters" and go after people anyway, because regulations, shmegulations.

And then there are those cases brought up because the principal has a personal vendetta against someone. For example, my late friend Chaz was in the rubber room for years over something that likely merited nothing beyond a verbal caution. Over at CPE1, the principal placed both the chapter leader and delegate on charges for the offense of doing their jobs, but both were restored after a few very uncomfortable months. That abusive principal, I'm happy to say, was ultimately less fortunate.

I know other teachers who were sent to the rubber room over what amounted to nothing, and sat there agonizing for months waiting to be released. I've spent hours on the telephone with them, telling them to be patient, but people simply can't be patient with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. In fairness, I've also known teachers who've done all sorts of things I'd much rather not have known about. In fact, one of the most egregious cases I've ever heard in my life was released from a 3020a hearing with no penalty, no anything, So that can happen too.

Nonetheless for me, when OEO or SCI claims this or that happened, my attitude is maybe it did and maybe it did not. I don't trust them at all.  I would not believe them for a moment if they told me they weren't after me, and just wanted to talk about someone else. I know a paraprofessional who believed that particular line He spoke to them after having been personally warned otherwise from me. This para was fired days later. (Of course, it's a little more complicated to fire a teacher than a paraprofessional.)

Regardless, it's very important to avail yourself of the right to representation when the suits come to your school. I tell members to say, "Please give me your card. I'd be happy to speak with you as soon as I have representation." I also tell them to call me, even in my classroom, if they want me to say it for them. I'm amazed at some responses agency people give us.

Once, a guy from SCI came in. A member, unwilling to speak to him, had called me down. When I told him to give us his card and the member would be happy to speak as soon as she had representation, he challenged me.

"Do you even know what this is about?"


"Do you care what it's about?"

"Protocol is the same regardless."

At this point, the SCI guy started screaming bloody murder. As he did so, the member asked me to step out so she could tell me what it was about. Turned out it was something very disturbing. It didn't involve the member, except for her having knowledge of it. Still, I don't trust these guys any farther than I can throw them. Who's to say they wouldn't blame her for things that were out of her control, or for not coming forward at the precisely correct moment? I told her to wait until we arranged representation.

I went back. I told the guy I now understood what the issue was. He nodded, expecting full compliance, and heatedly asked if she was ready to talk. He was a creep and I decided to make him angry.

I calmly answered, "Please give us your card, and she'll be happy to speak with you as soon as she has representation."

The guy started screaming again, a little louder this time. I didn't care about kids! All I cared about was protecting teachers! In fact, I care a lot about protecting teachers. It's a big part of being a chapter leader. There are rules, and even bellicose ex-cops in SCI have to follow them. I knew this guy didn't give a damn about my colleague, and his intent was bullying us into giving up her rights. Too bad for him. She didn't.

I sent a letter to a bunch of people, and Michael Mulgrew ended up writing to SCI to complain about their abuse of working UFT members.

As for the person who was really in trouble, having evidently, or at least allegedly done something very unsavory--this person resigned. Apparently by doing so, this person evaded judgment. Last I heard, the person got a job as a teacher in Long Island. So much for the efficiency and ultimate reach of SCI justice.  

Don't let these bullies intimidate you. Your voice is all you have. If you give it up, you may as well get used to being nobody. As unionists, part of our job is to set an example. We can't afford to be nobodies at work. Our goal is to make other people more like us, as opposed to following in the footsteps of Walmart associates.

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