For the very first time, a teacher rating of Ineffective has been overturned and a principal has been ordered to submit a different rating, thanks to the appeals process that the UFT insisted on as an essential part of any fair and impartial teacher evaluation system.
This was the first case before a three-member rating- appeals panel consisting of a neutral arbitrator and panelists selected by the UFT and the Department of Education. The union proved that the rating of Ineffective for the 2013–14 school year for Vicky Giasemis, the chapter leader at PS 90 in Coney Island, was due to harassment and animus by her principal, Greta Hawkins, and was not related to her job performance.
Hawkins was ordered on March 3 to submit a different rating to the panel for their approval.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew hailed the decision as “the culmination of a long battle to win meaningful protection for members rated Ineffective for no fault of their own.”
UFT General Counsel Adam Ross said the new protection against supervisory harassment was a major milestone.
“We never got ratings reversed on substance under Bloomberg, but now we have secured due-process rights for teachers in state education law,” he pointed out.
Giasemis was rated Effective on both the state and local measures of student learning, which account for 40 percent of her rating. But Hawkins slapped her with an Ineffective rating for measures of teacher practice even though, according to the arbitrator, the principal did not detail deficiencies in the physical environment and student-teacher interaction in Giasemis’ classroom in her observation reports.
The arbitrator found “that had the principal observed deficiencies in these readily observable classroom components they would have been included in her observations.”
The arbitrator further noted that there was no doubt that Giasemis “was a teacher for whom the principal had great dislike and little regard.”
The new ruling is just the most recent of a string of decisions nailing Hawkins as a bully.
In June 2013, an arbitrator ordered Hawkins to stop “harassing or otherwise discriminating” against union members lawfully exercising their union rights after she tried to intimidate 14 teachers who were named in a Step 1 grievance concerning lesson plans.
At Giasemis’ appeals hearing, teachers at PS 90 testified that Hawkins hung a copy of a New York Teacher story heralding that arbitration victory, “Staff wins grievance against ‘bully’ Coney Island principal,” on a bulletin board in her office as a badge of honor.
The arbitrator in the rating appeal said that article on the bulletin board was “in essence a daily reminder of who the principal held responsible for that award — the UFT — and more specifically, its chief representative at the school, the chapter leader.”
Giasemis said she is “delighted” that she has been vindicated, but she added, “There is no way to explain how I feel when I walk into school every day. After all the abuse, the damage is done.”
Judy Gerowitz, the UFT’s representative for District 21, noted that “the arbitrator left no doubt that animus toward the union and not poor pedagogy was the reason for her Ineffective rating.”
Diane Mazzola, the UFT coordinator of appeals, savored the broader meaning of the arbitration victory.
“The UFT fought long and hard to get a process which would result in fair hearings for those teachers whose ratings do not reflect their work in the classroom,” Mazzola said. “This appeal award demonstrates that we have, at last, achieved that goal.”