Educator Survival Guide

[DISCLAIMER: If you are teaching for July, August and every other vacation, have no intention of improving or being better, then please leave this page and think about going into a different field of work. We didn’t write this for you. You may be targeted because you are ineffective and don’t care to change. The students deserve dedicated educators.]

Are you an educator who cares about the students, cares about your job, but are under attack Do you feel helpless If so, maybe this page can help. Why are you under attack Perhaps you are just too old and making too much money. Your pension will be pretty substantial and your termination, resignation or retirement will help the city save money. Maybe it’s because you’re Hispanic, White, Black, Asian, or too vocal. Perhaps your administrators are jealous of you because you are 6 sizes smaller than them or the female staff members flirt with you. Quite possibly, you just simply questioned their actions (or lack of actions). It could be anything, but the fact is….you have been targeted. Now what

Perhaps you have reached out to your Chapter Leader, your union reps, or even a lawyer. You have filed meaningless grievances (that are now denied at a rate of 98.8%) You may be a David going up against a Goliath. You see, your administrators are not actually that tough. They may be the worst kind of bullies – the bullies that need backing. You know, like that kid with the yellow eyes from “A Christmas Story“. That backing is the NYC Department of Education’s Office of General Counsel. You are outnumbered and outbudgeted, but fear not. All hope is not lost. Remain calm. If you take anything away from this page, it is the word “Document.Document everything! DOCUMENT!!


Step 1: YOUR CELL PHONE WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND:If you have an old dumbphone, stop reading this for now, place the phone into a blender, and press “Puree”. Then go and buy a “smartphone” (ie. any Android, iPhone).

Step 2: APPS: You will need apps that allow you to make quick notes, at a moment’s notice, and back up automatically. Example : “On Jan 15th, I entered the principal’s office to discuss the lack ofdiscipline in the school. Theyimmediatelyignored my request and asked for 5 weeks worth of lesson plans and told me they will be dropping in’, sometime in the next few weeks, to check on me.” Werecommend Google DriveorEvernoteas they work across all operating systems.

Step 3: Audio Recording: In NY State we have a single consenting party law when it comes to recording conversations. At least one person in the conversation needs to know it’s being recorded. That could be you. If you are from another state, please check your local law. Don’t go buying aseparateaudio recorder, because it’s not as inconspicuous as a phone. If you go up to your bullies with a strange flower in your lapel, they may get suspicious. Just go to your phone’s App Store and type in “voice recorder”, test some out and make sure to check the settings so there isn’t a 5 min limit or something like that.

Step 4: Redundancy: Make copies of everything. Again you can use Google Drive, Dropbox or iCloud to upload you files. Use your smartphone camera to make clear copies of documents that you then upload to your online file system. Do not rely on aflashdrive. Not only can you lose it, but it can fall in the wrong hands. “Yo! Check out what’s on this flashdrive I found. It’s a video of AP Smith erasing test bubble sheets and changing answers…” I personally have copies of everything in several locations. Call me paranoid, but at one point I pictured Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon kicking in my door and storming my house with all his investigators. πŸ˜‰ Don’t ask why, but I think it had to do with two of his investigators coming to my house to confiscate equipment on February 28, 2012. That and I have a lot of evidence.

Sometimes you may have a verbal conversation with an administrator. You can always email them after and document the conversation. “Dear AP Smith, as per our conversation, on blah date, you indicated that I allow too many students to use the bathroom…

Step 5: FOIL: Because our schools are funded by tax dollars, you have the right to request documents. Look up the Freedom of Information Law. Then check out my post on easy it is to obtain information. Now I don’t know if the NYC DOE FOIL unit lets the administrators know you are looking into this, but you may want to have a friend make the request. I wasn’t hiding and have been using my name to FOIL time cards, incident reports, school credit card bills, audits etc. Read my How To FOIL. Be prepared for delays.

Step 6: Disciplinary Letters. It doesn’t matter if you are innocent. If they are after you, they will find you guilty. For some reason the UFT gave up the right for us to grieve letters in our file, BUT we can add rebuttal letters that get attached. When I signed the three disciplinary letters I received in 10 days, I wrote on each one “Rebuttal to Follow”. I’m wondering now if I could have written other things like “This investigation was flawed.” See my Disciplinary Letters and my subsequent rebuttal letters for ideas.

Step 7: Band Together: The union is you and your close colleagues. Band together! You are the 99%. Let the admin know that you have backing, because most are not intimidated by the UFT. Pick a day and have everyone wear blue or place a “Dont Tread on Me” flag on your door. That’s what I did until they ripped it down, when I wasabsent. I then replaced it with a bigger one. Thank you to my high school social studies teacher, Mr. Bruns, for teaching me about the Gadsden Flag.

2012-03-22 16.37.41

DTOM Flag on My STEM Lab Door


Me in Rubber Room still proclaiming Dont Tread on Me

Step 8: BLOG about it: Come up with a great name and buy the domain from or Then use or and create a blog. Give the public a play by play of what is happening to you and your colleagues. Perhaps they can control the media, but we still controlsocial media. Do not defame anyone. Be careful what you write. My blog is full of information on people, but I have evidence backing everything up.

Step 9: Twitter and Facebook: Tweet your story out there. Share it on Facebook as well. When I post a blog entry, it automatically tweets it to my followers as well as posts it on my two Facebook account timelines. I often tweet to @nycschools, media, the mayor, etc. All their followers will see it too. Mine is @mrportelos.

Step 10: Contact Authorities: DO NOT MAKE ANY FALSE ALLEGATIONS OR ALLEGATIONS YOU KNOW ARE DEFINITELY FALSE. There is no need to waste any more taxpayer money with investigators running around and charging the city for time, travel, subpeonas etc. You believe your bullies are involved in misconduct Wait! You are a mandated reporter, but don’t just go contactingSpecial Commisioner of Investigation (SCI), <a< span=””> href=”” target=”_blank”>Office of Special Investigation (OSI)or Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO)right away. I’ve read too many stories where, like me, the teacher’s/para’s troubles really began after they reported admin misconduct to these agencies. I had a clean record until I contacted SCI. Four days later I had three investigations and two disciplinary letters. Three days after I called OEO on an AP, she gave me my first ever U Observation. I was removed from school exactly one month later and that OEO case came out as unsubstantiated and they did not even call in all my witnesses.

You can try Suggesting an Audit through the Comptroller’s Office. You can also try contacting on the state or federal level. or contacting your local investigative bodies.

Here is the trouble with anonymous reports….you can’t find out what’s going on and they can’t contact you for more information. If you really, really need to take the anonymous route, head over to a a nearby Staples, Best Buy whatever and use one of their floor model computers. IPs can be traced. See my post Hate Mail from within the DOE. SCI has policing power and can make arrests. They are an entity under the NYC Dept. of Investigation. I’m a little leary if they take a serious complaint and refer it to OSI. They did that with me and I can’t fathom why you would let OSI investigate the DOE. It’s basically the DOE investigating itself.

If you don’t want to be anonymous, find a friend or family member with different name to make the reports and you can do this with the FOIL requests.


Step 11: Look at their admin manual: The DOEOffice of Labor Relationsput out a very detailed Q and Amanualfor principalsin April 2007.Almost like a Principals forDummies.Itis a revision and expansion of an earlier edition dated October 2004.Here it is:Frequently_asked_questions_–_doe_office_of_labor_relations_4-07

If you have any questions about this manual, feel free to contact Karen Solimando at of the Office of Labor Relations. If you wish to phone her, her number is (212) 374-7990.

Step 12: PERB Complaint:PERB stand for the Public Employees Relations Board. It’s the NY State board that makes sure that the unions and employers play nice in the sandbox. I filed an improper practice complaint against the city. It’s free and you may get discovery and access documents. I filed stating that my union activities lead to me being attacked.

Remember there are 300+ lawyers and 200+ accountability experts in the DOE…and then there is you.



See more stories of abuse:

*Note: I am about one semester from finishing my administrator courses and obtaining my certificate. You are not allowed to use this guide against me, in the future, when I am Principal Portelos at your school. πŸ˜‰


  1. Very nicely done. I know recording conversations is very important. Arbitrators at 3020a usually don’t care about them because they sometimes forget they have to actually consider evidence instead of hearsay. Judges in courts of law, on the other hand, might find a few juicy conversations revealing as to why a teacher is being harassed. Many things that must be done to “C” our “As” are for eventualities, what-ifs and the long term. Sometimes, gaining the affection of the students is helpful because they might rise up to defend you or at least refuse to lie about you for investigators and DOE lawyers. This is more of a preventive measure though, which is probably another teacher guide that needs to be written.

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  7. I just came across your site while doing some research for one of my writing projects. You offer some fantastic ideas, and I can’t stress the importance of documenting everything.

    Education is in crisis, and as educators, the front line troops, we need to band together to bring about change. As a teacher, I started my career in a worst-case scenario in Southwest Philadelphia. My students were violent, I had limited supplies, and my administrators ignored my cries for help. I documented everything, and after five and a half years, I was able to put my documentation into a memoir, which I published last November. Now the corruption of our officials and the severe neglect of our students is available to the public in hopes that enough people discover exactly how bad things are in order to bring about education reform.

    Thanks again for posting this site. From one educator to another, your efforts are greatly appreciated. I’ll be sure to link to this page through my Twitter & FB accounts today.

  8. Question:

    Is the Office of Labor Relations Manual outdated

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