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Rubber rooms to close June 30

UFT signs historic agreement with city to ‘end fear tactic’ used against members

UFT President Michael Mulgrew (seated, right) and Chancellor Joel Klein sign the agreement while Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott look on.

The highlights

  • The rubber rooms will close at the end of the current school year.

  • As of Sept. 1, UFT-represented pedagogues who are accused of misconduct or incompetence will be:

  • Assigned to their schools to do certain professional or administrative activities listed in the teachers’ collective-bargaining agreement;

    Assigned to a DOE administrative office to do administrative work consistent with law; or

    Sent home with pay in very limited circumstances.

  • After removing an educator from the classroom, DOE officials will have 10 days to bring incompetence charges and 60 days for charges of misconduct. Any educator not formally charged within that time will be sent back to his or her previous assignment.

  • For those whose investigations result in charges, the hearing process must be completed within 60 days in most cases. An arbitrator would then have 30 days to make a decision. The number of arbitrators who hear such cases will increase from 23 to 39.

  • Some members accused of less serious, non-termination offenses will have a mandated process consisting of three hearing days.

  • For educators currently assigned to rubber rooms, arbitrators will work as mediators in an effort to settle many of the cases in the backlog. The rest will proceed to 3020-a hearings. The 3020-a hearing of anyone charged by Aug. 31, 2010, must be completed by the end of the calendar year. These educators will be given an administrative reassignment at their school or at a DOE office while their case is being heard.

At long last, the controversial Temporary Reassignment Centers, dubbed rubber rooms, will close on June 30 thanks to an intensive effort by the UFT and the city.

At a press conference on April 15, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced an agreement that will see the rooms closed for good.

“The rubber rooms are a symptom of a disciplinary process that has not worked for anyone — not the kids, not the schools, and not the teachers,” Mulgrew said. “This agreement is designed to get teachers out of the rubber rooms and to ensure that they do not have to wait for months or years to have their cases heard. Most importantly, it removes a fear tactic used by management against our members in schools.”

Approximately 550 educators are currently assigned to rubber rooms; about half are under investigation and awaiting charges, while most of the remainder are going through the hearing process. Cases can take months or years to be resolved.

The agreement will clear the backlog by December, speed up the adjudication process and remove the stigma of allegedly bad teachers being removed from their schools and watched over all day by private security guards.

Most members assigned to the Temporary Reassignment Centers reacted positively to the deal, happy to be leaving the notorious rooms, one of which packed 24 people in 600 square feet in a drab Brooklyn basement.

A few were skeptical, given Klein’s track record, that the DOE would adhere to any agreement.

Educators in schools expressed a sense of relief that principals will no longer be able to use the threat of a rubber room. Some believe that principals used the rubber rooms to punish whistleblowers, threaten strong chapter leaders and harass those who claimed they were being mistreated based on their age and race.

Under the agreement, for most teachers who have been accused of misconduct, the DOE will have the ability to remove them from their classrooms and reassign them to administrative duties in schools or DOE offices for a period of 60 days while it investigates the accusations. If charges are not filed after the 60 days, the reassigned educator must be returned to his or her former school duties while the probe continues.

Once charged, for most educators, the 3020-a disciplinary process will now include 10 to 14 hearing days on the charges. Educators accused of less-serious, non-termination offenses will have a mandated process consisting of three hearing days.

“It will be a faster, fairer process,” said Mulgrew.

Despite inaccurate statements to the contrary, the DOE always had the right to give work to reassigned educators. The idea that UFT members enjoyed “sitting around doing nothing all day” was an absurd allegation used to portray the union and its members as protecting featherbedders and deadbeats, union officials said.

Before the Bloomberg-Klein administration, educators accused of misconduct or incompetence were reassigned to district offices to do work.

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