Posts Tagged teachers unions

Like Welfare Recipients, NYC Teachers Get Paid To Sit Around And Do Nothing

rubber roomTwo documentary filmmakers have infiltrated New York City’s infamous “rubber rooms” — the eight disciplinary dens around the city where educators accused of wrongdoing while away months, or even years, at full pay — to reveal teachers snoozing at their desks, holding jam sessions, playing board games, and breaking into fights.

These educators in limbo — some still raking in six figures a year — show up from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a “work” day that, in some cases, consists of holding book-club meetings and prayer sessions, repeatedly karate-kicking a file cabinet, or forming a musical duo complete with keyboards and vocals, according to the makers of “The Rubber Room,” screening next month.

Their footage reveals the maddening culture in which more than 600 banned city teachers — fighting being fired or waiting for their names to be cleared — are kept in this purgatory and try to stave off boredom any way they can.

The filmmakers found one teacher who had been in a rubber room for 12 years.

Doodling is a popular pastime. Others read every word of the newspaper. Many gulp down cup after cup of coffee.

The more motivated among them work on laptops — sometimes to earn higher-education degrees or to run side businesses, both of which are against the rules.

The rooms are depressing. One space is large and windowless, flooded by bright florescent light, jammed with rows of large aging desks, metal folding chairs and debris, including foam cups, newspapers and plastic bags.

The walls bear the same blue-and-white pattern used at Rikers Island.

In one rubber room, the filmmakers found a middle-aged man sitting with his eyes closed, leaning back in a chair. A woman behind him appears to be dozing comfortably, her chest and arms covered by what looks like a blanket.

Rubber rooms, or “reassignment centers,” were created by the city Department of Education as a dumping ground for teachers awaiting charges ranging from incompetence to sexual misconduct. The educators are required to report to their room daily and must, by law, be paid their full salary until their matter is resolved.

Because of the haggling between the teachers union and the DOE and the glacial pace of investigations, procedural requirements and hearings, many teachers languish here for years

Last year, the city paid its rubber-room teachers $40 million in salaries alone.

DOE officials have blamed the backlog in disciplinary hearings on onerous provisions in the teachers contract and state law that protect teachers who deserve to be fired. Members of the teachers union have said the DOE intentionally drags out cases to force highly paid educators into retirement.

In 2008, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and then-United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten trumpeted an agreement they said would alleviate the backlog, mostly by setting new time limits for cases.

Despite those measures, the number of teachers in rubber rooms has dipped only slightly. Talks are ongoing to fix what both sides agree is a broken — and costly — system.

“It’s like a jail for teachers,” one rubber-room exile says in the film.

“We have constant fights,” another says. “Yesterday, three fights broke out.”

The most epic battles in the rooms are over seats.

“It’s a big problem,” Justin Cegnar, one of the filmmakers, told The Post. “If you’re going to be in there eight hours a day for months and months, you definitely want a chair. You’re a full-grown adult, and it becomes, ‘Will I get a chair today, or will I have to stand or sit on the floor all day?’ ”

Cegnar’s partner on the project, Jeremy Garrett, said the idea for the film came to him when a colleague of his at Castle Hill Middle School in the Parkchester section of The Bronx was accused of staring at a female student’s backside and sent to a rubber room.

While the teacher was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, Garrett, 33, a film-school graduate and former Bronx teacher, was shocked by the concept of the rubber room.

Work on the film started in 2005, and was slow going until Garrett managed to infiltrate several rubber rooms by posing as a reassigned teacher.

In 2007, he was arrested for trespassing after a teacher at the Chapel Street rubber room in Brooklyn objected to having a camera pointed in her direction. When he was released from a Brooklyn cell the next day, the day’s footage was no longer in the camera.

Cegnar, 35, a Web designer from Astoria, Queens, said he grew to appreciate the plight of the teachers, some of whom he saw as caught in the cogs of an aggressive disciplinary system.

One woman interviewed describes the scene in her room as a “horrible waste.”

“There are some people who say, ‘You’re so lucky. You’re sitting, doing nothing and you’re getting your salary.’ Don’t fool yourself. There isn’t one person in that room that thinks they are lucky,” she says.

Some look around and see fellow educators who should never have been allowed in a classroom.

“There are people in the rubber room I talk to who are guilty as sin,” one male teacher says.

“They shouldn’t be in the rubber room,” another says. “They should be fired.”

The film’s rare footage underlines how rubber rooms are hidden from public view.

“What an abominable secret that the Department of Education is keeping from the public,” one teacher says.

“At least half the teachers don’t know what the rubber room is,” another says.

Cegnar said, “I’m sympathetic toward everyone [involved], because it sucks for everybody.”

“It’ll get painted as, ‘Look at this! Why are we housing 150 perverts and paying their full salary?’ But what it really is is one big confusing f- – -ing mess.”

“The general public doesn’t realize what is going on in education,” Garrett said. ” ‘The Rubber Room’ is a window into some of the dysfunction of the system.”

The film, which has yet to land a distributor, premieres at the Puck Building in SoHo on April 16.

In detentionfull pay for teachers under disciplinary actions rubber room

8 rubber rooms citywide

675 educators in them every day

140 for misconduct

117 for corporal punishment

102 for arrests outside school

45 for incompetence

$40.5M paid to these teachers in last fiscal year

12 years one teacher had been in a rubber room

Not going anywhere for awhile

Notable rubber-room residents:

Alan Rosenfeld: Typing teacher, IS 347, Queens

Salary: $100,049

Got a wrist-slap for lewd comments to teen girls, telling one, “You have a sexy body.” In since 2001, he lazes away the days overseeing a $7.8 million real-estate portfolio and a law practice.


Radharaman Upadhyaya: Guidance counselor, Long Island City HS, Queens

Salary: $102,852

Served a three-day suspension after he was accused of fondling a learning-disabled student at his home. The witness was found not to be credible. He has been twiddling his thumbs in the rubber room since 2003.


Francisco Olivares: Math teacher, IS 61, Queens

Salary: $94,145

Allegedly impregnated and married a 16-year-old student he met when she was 13. He allegedly molested two 12-year-olds a decade later. In a rubber room since 2003.


David Pakter: Medical illustrator, HS for Art and Design

Salary: $100,049

Named “Teacher of the Year” by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In 2006, he was charged with insubordination and sexual misconduct.


Deborah Mortley: Gym teacher, Life Academy HS for Film & Music, Brooklyn

Salary: $100,049

Allegedly choked and punched a 10th-grader on March 5 for not wearing a required school shirt.


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Government employee pay increasing faster than incomes of Californians

 Sacramento — At an event tonight hosted by the San Joaquin Taxpayers Association in Stockton — the largest municipality to declare bankruptcy in the United States due to overly generous government employee compensation — the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation and the Center for Government Analysis will jointly release a new study that reveals alarming compensation trends for State workers from 2005 to 2010.

The study, conducted by the Center for Government Analysis (CGA), found that total expenditures by the State of California to finance salaries and pension benefits for State workers grew three times as fast as the per capita personal income of all Californians.

Among other findings is the fact that estimated expenditures to pension systems have increased more than 4½ times.

“Given the importance of the topic of California’s finances, the State’s expenditures (and the lack of disclosure regarding them) further erodes public confidence in our State government,” said Steven Frates, President of CGA.

The research also revealed that had the state allowed State worker salaries and benefits to increase at the same rate as the general per capita income rate for the rest of Californians, the State could have saved more than $2.1 billion — enough to increase the number of California teachers by 8.2%, adding nearly 25,000 teachers. If the State had kept the State worker workforce from growing, they would have saved even more — nearly $3 billion.

“The findings in this study completely belie the excuses from Sacramento politicians that they need more money in state coffers,” said Jon Coupal, Chairman of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation. “A rapidly escalating share of taxpayer dollars that is being spent in Sacramento today is going toward bloated salaries and pensions, not teachers and schools.”

The research was supported by a grant from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation. For a copy of the study, click here.


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