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Some notes about the Chapter Leader who lost it

April 25, 2009 pm30 10:30 pm

The story was all over the news yesterday, and it’ll be gone in a day. A teacher in the Bronx, a middle school teacher, chapter leader and Army Reservist, lost it. He barricaded himself in a classroom for a few hours, (no hostages involved). The building (3 schools) was evacuated, and then he surrendered. The MSM covered it all day, and the blogs picked up from there. In particular, it turned out that he appears to have maintained a website with some strange educational philosophy, and at least one (soft core?) porn novella. I don’t know what will happen next. Between yesterday’s crisis, the original charge, and the website, the DoE will likely build a big case against the guy.

But there are a few thoughts that the media and the blogs may likely miss. These are for teachers and our union:

  • The Rubber Room is a horrible place. This guy was sent to the rubber room before (twice?) and cleared both times (?) This incident was (probably?) sparked by him getting sent there again. His reaction to being sent again was certainly nothing we would condone. But there is something really really bad about the rubber room, and the agreement from last spring does not seem to have made things better.
  • The Principals In Need of Improvement program has an effect. The school New Millenium Business Academy (MS328) in District 9, is on the UFT’s PINI list. I don’t know the details in this school, but that likely means that grievances were being filed and negative publicity was being shared, perhaps with the community.
  • Principals retaliate. It will (likely?) emerge that the initial charge against the teacher stemmed from breaking up a fight. (Normally?) the teacher would sit in an office for a couple of days while the principal investigated the charges, cleared the teacher, and returned him to the classroom. But this is a PINI principal. The Chapter Leader was probably actively involved in going after this guy, and he probably retaliated by rubber rooming him, all out of proportion.
  • Chapter Leaders need protection. In the contract? I don’t know. But adding language would send a message. But maybe not in the contract. Bottom line: principals need to know that messing with a CL will result in immediate, uncomfortable consequences. That idea, we once had it. It’s been lost. It needs to be put back out there, yes in words, but more importantly, in deeds.
  • Fights in the classroom put teachers in a bind. Let them tear each other apart? How can we? Yet try to break it up, and we might find charges leveled against us. Officially I have to say that you should not touch the kids. But as a person I have to say, don’t let them kill each other. Call for help. Try to “teacher voice” them apart. We are stuck in these situations.
  • Evacuation plans still are not universal. I don’t know how the media missed this, but it will emerge that either the school had no evacuation plan, or it was completely ignored. We’re post- Columbine, post-9/11, but no one knew what to do, and the principal could not account for the kids.
  • The DR – CL relationship is a special one. It didn’t get enough play in the news, but it was the Chapter Leader’s District Rep, Carol Harrison, who played a key role in ending the crisis.
  • Nothing on the web is anonymous. Act as if everything you write, every image you upload, is public.
9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2009 am30 3:16 am 3:16 am

    here, for my convenience,
    is some coverage in “gotham schools”.

  2. April 26, 2009 am30 3:18 am 3:18 am

    obviously if this is more detail than you (jd) wanted
    in your version of the story i won’t be offended if
    you clobber it. (and this.)

  3. April 26, 2009 am30 5:56 am 5:56 am

    Nah, no problem having more details. I wasn’t hiding them; just concentrating on what teachers/activists/union officials could or should take away from the story.

    What I wrote, the papers won’t be interested in. But, yeah, for the news story you’d have to google it or follow the link you provided. From what I saw, the New York daily newspapers and the major radio and TV stations had more comprehensive coverage.

    But again, I’m not competing – just taking a (very) different angle.

  4. canwetalk permalink
    April 26, 2009 am30 7:48 am 7:48 am

    There are many chapter leaders who are feeling the wraths of their principals for upholding the members’ rights, for holding principals to the fire and for making them accountable. Klein empowered principals to run schools, but principals think that they are powerful and exempted from all disciplinary actions. As union members and activits, the language of the contract must change so as to provide more protection for our chapter leaders, to have expedited appeal hearings for those chapter leaders who receive a u-rating for being proactive, to place letters in the principal’s file when these principals use flimpsy, ridiculous, absurd reasons to u-rate chapter leaders. Principals are using this relentless method of writing up UFT members as a scare tactic and to keep our proactive union brothers and sisters at bay. We cannot allow this abuse to continue and Randi must look into the abuse. Although Mr. Garabitos used that extreme measure to send a message to the union and the city and I am not condoning this behavior, we need to look at all the circumstances that finally lead to the 4/24 incident. Nothing can be dismissed and assumptions cannot be allowed if we want to address this problem and avoid a reoccurence. Klein is making it impossible for teachers to enjoy teaching, to voice their opinions, to grow professionally, and to meet the needs of our students and to make a difference. This chancellor has managed to find the human weakness in all of us – in house fighting among our own members and to pit teachers against teachers. I know that some individuals should never go into teaching, but at the same time some peoples should NOT be in charge of running schools. The union has programs to help teachers improve their pedagogical skills. Those individuals who do not improve the union advises them out of the teaching profession. It’s fair and right. Yet, an incompetent principal will stay, take deep roots in their ineptitude, and they are rewarded by the CSA and Klein for destroying the career of those educators who bring to the fore that these principals are not upholding their end: to respect the contract, education, and those in the schools. How many more incidents do we need before it gets more tragic and a teacher takes his/her life because of a principal’s relentless pursuit to wield his/her power over justice, truth, and education? If this teacher went to that extreme to tell the city what’s happening with the principal and the issues at the school, then the union must do something before a teacher loses his/her life because of being sent to the rubber room! Let’s place the blame where it belongs – Klein & Bloomberg for bringing undue pressure to those who want to teach and demand respect.

    • suicideiswhatBloomiewants! permalink
      April 28, 2009 am30 4:50 am 4:50 am

      If this teacher had killed himself instead of doing what he did
      there would be no story! I heard of one teacher who was sent to
      the rubber room, I think a multiple of times, and one lunchtime
      on a day that he was in one of the rubber rooms it is believed that
      he killed himself in the street by allowing a car to hit him. It was reported as an accident, but I really believe it was suicide….
      I have also heard of another teacher that killed himself because
      of false purely fabricated charges…..why weren’t these stories
      front page……no! only if it looks like others will be hurt because
      of your “going off” then everyone is concerned…..but if you kill yourself huh….no one cares…..not even UFT or Randi Weingarten!!

      This guy is probably going to definitely lose his job, or may even
      be up on some serious charges, especially since children were
      greatly impacted….I shedded tears when I read this story, it is sad for everyone who it effects, because we are all human beings.

      But honey, if a teacher kills himself or herself, especially if he or she is high up on that payscale (and this teacher had 28 years in the system, see, this principal was obviously trying to get rid of him for budgetary reason) I am sure this teacher was near the 100,000 a year mark. Now do you think this principal will get in trouble for harassment or age discrimination!! Of course not! If this teacher killed himself this principal would get one of these youngins that she only has to pay 40k per year to replace him and save a good 60k. She would then get a plaque from the Chancellor and Bloomie, a cake and possibly a promotion to Superintendent and live happily ever after…..but she would probably pay dearly in the next life…….

  5. I was there. permalink
    April 28, 2009 am30 6:00 am 6:00 am

    I don’t work in that school, but I am in the building. Lots of gripes against that principal, most real and legit. Letters have been sent to the Region/support network or whatever it’s called, and to the union. One of the other principals was approached by the teachers about taking over. It’s sad to me that it had to come to this to get any attention. The kids in that building are all over the place- they are in charge. There are two things that have been absent from the coverage and it pisses me off a bit: 1) This principal is from the Leadership Academy. So we know where his management style comes from and I don’t think he ever taught. 2) That school has nearly HALF as many kids as the other schools but more physical space. I think there are 275 kids there compared to almost 500 in the other two schools. And yet those kids are the most out of control in the building.

    I am also curious about your source for your statement about the principal not being able to account for the kids- my principal and ap had us get head counts almost immediately and we were able to account for all our kids. Any plan, if it exists, was probably not followed, but overall the scene was pretty well managed, I thought. School safety and the PD were there really fast and helped us out. Of course parents were frantic and mad that we hadn’t called them. Kids who didn’t have phones were able to borrow them, though. Don’t know how we could have called any parents.

    • April 28, 2009 am30 6:58 am 6:58 am

      As you report, the other schools did normal evacuations. On 880 they interviewed parents who had grabbed their kids out of the crowd – certainly that school was no accounting for them. Further, their initial reaction was to march them in a circle – not likely to be in the school safety plan.

  6. maybehedidnotknowanybetter! permalink
    April 28, 2009 pm30 8:10 pm 8:10 pm

    The Department of Education, upon recruitment should tell its employees
    that there are some activities that they are not allowed to “manage” or
    “own”. Better yet, the UFT SHOULD INFORM TEACHERS OF THIS. Job protection is not only protecting your job from others, but also from yourself! When a person does something so inappropriate and career destroying as to own this type of website he may not have realized that one day it will come be found out. He was a teacher for 28 years, I think if he know that he could destroy all this through being connected to this internet activity he would not have thought it was worth it. Teachers need to protect their jobs from themselves? As silly as this may sound, think about it, it does make sense! A lot of teachers do crazy or inappropriate things and then when it is revealed that have to pay the price with their careers.

    He (the teacher Garabitos) probably thought that there was nothing
    wrong with the material or web page that he owned. He probably
    thought that since it is not a child porn site that he could not get
    in trouble. He probably also thought since it was in his private life too, that there was nothing wrong with it. Teachers must watch their behavior, I had to tell a friend of mine who is a model, and is considering teaching, that their are certain photographs that she cannot be seen in if she wants to become a teacher, even decent skippy swimwear jobs she would have to cease accepting. I asked her, suppose your students see it? She then decided against becoming a teacher, and go towards another career! My point is, this type of discussion is important because sometimes people just don’t know. I think and I hope, most of us do know, what we can and can’t do as teachers.


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