Mayor and School’s Chancellor Call it Counseling, We Call it Workplace Bullying

Workplace Bullying Awareness week ends tomorrow, but workplace bullying continues and escalates in the New York City Department of Education.

I know I don’t write on this blog as often as I used to. There are many reasons for that. Aside from trying to be a better husband and father, teaching and responding to requests for help,?I have been very involved with our group UFT Solidarity and our campaign to win the UFT 2016 election this April.

Another group I have been involved with is the ATR Alliance, and currently hold the?position of president.?Again the ATR pool?is a large group?of educators that have been displaced for many reasons. They are given assignments to rotate from school to school. According to our survey ( the average age of this group is 51. In fact, over 65% are over 40. Imagine hospitals pushing out their most veteran and experienced doctors?

How do you push these members to resign or retire, if they love teaching??OK, ready? Let’s go to this March 2015 Chalkbeat article:

Most ATR teachers who left system since new contract took buyouts, retired

…de Blasio said that the best way to get around those problems is?by avoiding formal procedures altogether. Instead, principals and department?officials should focus on counseling subpar teachers to leave on their own, a strategy that Chancellor Carmen Fari?a told Capital gives them an ?opportunity to leave gracefully.? Some of the recent retirements and resignations were likely the result of that kind of strategic pressure, officials said.”

If you can counsel someone out voluntarily, skip all that process ? ?You don?t belong here anymore, you?re a good human being but you don?t belong here anymore, you?re not into it, you?re burned out, you can?t do what we need you to do in this day and age,? whatever it is ? if that person goes along willingly, that is the most efficient way to resolve the problem,? de Blasio said.

You might be reading “counseling” and “strategic pressure,” but we heard and experienced was “harassment” and “workplace bullying.”

You see, if the DOE had a method for counseling, then it would be in black and white print as some form of policy or directive. According to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) we would be able to obtain such a policy. What is involved in counseling? Is there a meeting? Who do they decide to counsel? Is the UFT involved and invited? Is the ATR informed that they are being counseled?

This counseling policy was actually requested. After months of the DOE records officer delaying a in furnishing the records, the final response was “no such policy was found.” Surprise!

Here’s the truth:

The average age of an ATR is 51 according to our survey of 100 ATRs. Most of them receive Satisfactory or Effective ratings. However Field Supervisors are sent to harass, bully and intimidate educators that are close to or past retirement age. Our ATRs have recorded some of these bullying tactics and also posted their stories here:

Principals and Assistant Principals are involved in the?harassment -er I mean “counseling.”

One 69 year old ATR was given 5 periods of hall duty.

Another was falsely written up for hitting a child with a ruler, when adult witnesses actually stated she lightly tapped him on the arm with a pencil to turn around.

Another veteran and experienced teacher was observed 26 times in less than two months.

Another was called “fat.” and “too old” to be teaching.

Many were rated Unsatisfactory in their teaching when they just met the students and were teaching out of their license. I would like to see Chancellor Farina come in to teach as a sub in a tough neighborhood, while we stand in the??room with a ?clipboard. That would be a great episode of “Undercover Boss.”


Do I believe that there are teachers that should not be teaching and need real counseling to see if they will stay and improve or leave? Yes.

Do I believe that the DOE has a real mechanism, that is not bully tactics, to remove real ineffective teachers? No.

Do I believe the overarching agenda is to attack and destroy tenure while decreasing pension accrual? YES! This is not about students, this is about MONEY.

Are all the teachers they bully/counsel bad teachers? No way. I know many of them and can tell they are dedicated and experienced educators. For whatever reason, they have become a target and the only way to fight back is through the continuing mobilization and organization of groups like the ATR Alliance and UFT Solidarity. We have seen a change in the way the ATR office (Teacher Recruitment & Quality) has been handling ATRs this new school year. It’s an improvement, because they don’t know how to counsel a larger army when they were used to picking off members one by one.

I personally continue to travel from school to school. I teach and learn. Oh, and I don’t mean I just teach the children. I spread the good word of unionism and of course our campaign. In fact most of the?350 ATRs in our group are doing the??same. Our army is growing.

Workplace bullying? Not on my watch. Vote for me and the UFT Solidarity so we can put an end to the warrantless workplace bullying that takes place.



About Francesco Portelos

Parent and Educator fighting for the student and the teacher.
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