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Ruining careers for $475/month (18 month term)

January 22, 2011 pm31 2:29 pm

[updated 1/23/11 with initial Mulgrew quotes and a link to the 1/22 NYDN article]

Iris Blige will pay a fine, less than 5% of her salary, for ruining the careers of good teachers, of developing new teachers (and of APs). She tried to ruin even more careers.

Iris Blige’s Fordham HS for the Arts was my model for the kind of school a new teacher should avoid. Do Not Apply, I wrote, this school ends careers. It was true.

Two years ago hundreds of high school teachers from across the Bronx protested yet another instance of baseless discipline against a teacher. In that instance, Blige took advantage of the teacher’s immigration status to try to get her deported.

Finally OSI found this August that what we already knew was true: that Blige ordered APs to U teachers without any attempt to evaluate them, that she chose to go after, and found reasons afterwards.

The penalty? Iris Blige and Elena Papaliberios signed a stipulation just after Thanksgiving, agreeing to a $7500 fine spread out over a year and a half. Is there any word about the teachers whose careers were ruined? The question certainly needs to be brought straight to the UFT.

[edit: Mulgrew is quoted as saying “[Blige] is extremely unscrupulous in the way she does her job,” and “I think it’s outrageous. If the price for ruining someone’s career is $7,500, where’s the accountability?”]

Gotham Schools and the New York Post reported (the Post was clearer about the injustice, GS managed to misuse a big word in its headline.) Chaz posted on his blog. [edit: and the New York Daily News reported]. Former District Rep Lynne Winderbaum wrote excellent commentary at GS. I reprint them, below the fold –>

Principals like Blige who ruin lives, ruin careers, rule by fear and intimidation. Signaling the robotic foolishness of Cathie Blacks talking points, Blige is an example of how the dedicated, vibrant, caring new teachers that Black wants to save from layoffs ate the ones whose careers were cut short by the vindictiveness of this principal. Bishop, Hidalgo, Street, Troy, all popular and well-liked young teachers, were cut down early in their promising careers.

On one occasion a student at the school asked me “why does Ms. Blige get rid if all our favorite teachers?”

So harsh were the conditions under her tyranny that from 2007-2008 she had a turnover rate of 70.5%. Dozens of teachers have left every year since 2004 because of this principal. Of the more than a dozen APs in her school in fewer than since 2004, at least ten have left many testifying against her in this investigation and others. Evaluations, which are designed to improve instruction in the classroom, were being instead subverted into a tool to intimidate teachers and stifle dissent.

The fact that the DOE doesn’t terminate Blige should serve as a dire warning for anyone who believes that the can evaluate leadership for our schools. Principals like Iris Blige are not instructional leaders but people who maintain their power by using their authority to rate staff to impose their will.

Iris Blige who, when she was not giving out unjust ratings and firing new teachers, was sending them to the rubber room for petty or no reason.
A former UFT chapter leader, Rick Coscia, spent two years on trumped up charges which were ultimately dropped. Fannie Davis, a twenty-seven year award- winning teacher, spent two years on an allegation coerced from AP Ahmed Edwards. There were never any charges, investigation, or decision. Her “crime” was that she exercised her right to file a Step 2 grievance for improper excessing. When she returned from the hearing, Blige had her promptly shipped to the rubber room by forcing Edwards to say Davis threatened her or she would deny him tenure.

Blige claimed that Raqnel James also threatened her. After an unblemished eight-year teaching career, this beloved teacher found herself facing deportation when Blige falsely charged her as well. The District Attorney has now asked for twelve postponements over two years as James is dragged through the court system.

After over 400 students, teachers, and even administrators demonstrated against her in March 2009, she threatened every student who partcipated. She sent a guidance counselor to tell them they would not get their diplomas. She told them they could not participate in student activities. She threw one girl off the School Leadership Team. Robert Small, the OSI investigator was given a list of 13 such students to interview.

The result? A fine. Good luck NYC.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. WATCHDOG permalink
    January 22, 2011 pm31 7:15 pm 7:15 pm


    It is important to understand that the decision to offer a monetary penalty and not pursue formal charges against Iris Blige as a tenured principal was ultimately the decision of the Office of the Chancellor. Read the Stipulation of Settlement for a complete understanding of the conditions under wish this matter was resolved by the Chancellor.

    The stipulation is signed by Iris Blige and by Theresa Europe, Deputy Counsel to the Chancellor. OSI was very clear in their findings that the allegations against Iris Blige had merit and were substantiated. The final report which should have been completed in a much more timely fashion (much less than twenty (20) months) included a recommendation that a copy of the report be sent to the Administrative Trials Unit for appropriate disciplinary action. The blame for this unacceptable and deplorable settlement rests clearly with the Chancellor. There should have been no discussion about the possibility of any settlement in this case. There was no choice here but to remove this principal immediately and file charges to seek her termination, removal of license and revocation of state certification. Why would the Chancellor not seek the removal of this principal after having such serious allegations substantiated? We need to ask why … What do you think?

    • Linda Butkowski permalink
      January 23, 2011 pm31 10:10 pm 10:10 pm

      I think there is a relationship with someone at the city level. I was her first assistant principal and lasted only one term with her. When she thought I was “talking about her” across the street [at 1 Fordham Plaza], she warned me that I better keep my mouth shut because “you don’t know who I know”.

      Additionally, when Chancellor Klein visited the Roosevelt Campus when they came off the Impact list, she received a hug and kiss on the cheek from him. Is that how he usually greeted principals?

  2. January 23, 2011 am31 2:59 am 2:59 am

    Unfortunately, this principal plays into the archetype I know hold in my head about all administrators.

  3. Jim Callaghan permalink
    January 23, 2011 am31 10:48 am 10:48 am

    Mulgrew should save his outrage for the UFT comic pages.
    Klein knew all about Blige and the recantation of an Assistant Principal because I wrote about it in the Spring of 2009. It didn’t take a special investigation to uncover the Blige horror show, supported by Mulgrew and Weingarten.

    I quoted members who said Blige specifically went after chapter leaders and sent them to the rubber rooms on trumped up charges-they were never charged with anything and were all sent back to the classroom.

    That was the last article I was allowed to write about Blige.
    When the union had a rally on March 13, 2009, Weingarten sent out a press advisory (I have a copy) knocking the total number of protesters down to 50 after she was told that 500 would attend. So even then the union was protecting Blige.

    The worst case is the teacher accused of leaving a letter in Blige’s mailbox threatening to murder her! The letter said there was a “gang” led by the teacher who would do the killing of the principal and her son.

    Fifteen cops came to the school, interviewed no one except the teacher, lied to her and said they had her on video and had her fingerprints on the letter.
    Then they changed the story to say they had her handwriting on the letter, which was announced by an Assistant Principal- tape recorded by a member- one week later.

    Now-think Tucson and Gabby Phillips: what happened to the teacher after one “expert” detective said it was the teacher’s handwriting?
    NOTHING! It is a felony to threaten murder of a public official. Nothing happened until eight weeks later in April, 2009, after I called Blige for a comment on my story. The next day, the teacher was arrested and charged with a misdeameanor. (Even if she is found guilty, she will serve 15 days of community service picking up garbage on the Grand Concourse).
    The Bronx D.A.- elected with help from the UFT- did not ask for bail, didn’t ask for the teacher’s passport to be lifted and the principal never asked for extra police protection for her, students, parents and the staff. Weingarten refused to call him and ask that he personally look at the case. There was no police probe of the gang.
    The teacher -this horrible accused murderer beloved by her students and colleagues– was sent back to the rubber room.
    Nearly two years later, after the D.A. Robert Johnson asked for 15 posponements, there has been no trial and the case is still open.

    Oh- the teacher lost her job because neither Mulgrew nor Weingarten nor NYSUT lawyer Claude Hirsch lifted a finger to help her. She never had a 3020A hearing. The DOE used a loophole in the law saying they could refuse to approve her application for a work visa if she was “accused” of misconduct.
    Incredibly, Weingarten and Mulgrew allowed this absurdity to stand unchallenged. So the only question still open is: what did they get out of it?

    My editor Deidre McFadyen and staff director Leroy Barr denied me a vacation day-for the first time since I worked at the union- so I could attend the teacher’s court hearing on my own time–to give her moral support (I have the Barr email).
    Weingarten pulled my story the day after the teacher got arrested; Weingarten, Barr, Mulgrew and others all said she was guilty- merely because she had been arrested.
    I had to shame Weingarten the lawyer, “teacher” into finally running the story-two weeks later- after I reminded her about the 6th Amendment (Weingarten told me that most teachers in the rubber rooms were guilty and crazy, which is why I was allowed to run only one rubber room story-in October 2007.
    When an Assistant Principal wanted to tell me the story about how she helped frame the teacher, Mulgrew, Barr and McFadyen refeused to let me run the story and Mulgrew wouldn’t even call the D.A. to say he was sending over an important witness.
    So it is clear- I have lots more on this story and other Weingarten-Mulgrew cover ups of corruption- that the UFT leaders were protecting Klein and the members could go to hell in a hand basket.
    The Blige case is one of many that will stand out as the defining Weingarten-Mulgrew legacy of cowardice, double dealing and abusing the rights of members whose dues they collect for their fat 400k salaries and benefits but then refuse to represent them.
    I blame Klein and Blige but Weingarten, Mulgrew, Barr and McFadyen could have exposed this horrible principal two years ago and chose instead to be part of the cover up, as they were at so many other schools which you will be reading about shortly.
    When Mulgrew fired me in August 2010 for organizing a union-after 13 years of praise from him, Weingarten and hundreds of UFT officials and the members, he told the press I was unprofessional!
    And what other word can we use to describe his perfidy and Weingarten’s abandonment of an accused teacher who came to America from Jamaica to fulfill the immigrant’s dream yet was crushed by the DOE-UFT steamroller?
    If there was ever a PERB case for non-representation, this was it- although I lived through so many others when I had to argue with my editor McFadyen and Weingarten-Mulgrew apparatchiks to get the stories in the union newspaper.
    Mulgrew is so paranoid and vicious that he had McFadyen -at $150,000 a year-sit and go through the New York Teacher archives on line and take stories like Blige off the web site- she has disappeared into the dark hole of corruption that exists at the union. Mulgrew even ordered my name off the obit of Jack Newfield, who once wrote for the union!
    How low can a such a self-styled tough guy get?
    Stay tuned- lots more to come.

  4. Linda Butkowski permalink
    January 23, 2011 pm31 10:19 pm 10:19 pm

    I am quite surprised to learn that the union did nothing to help Raqnel James against these accusations. Everyone who knew her and Blige knew exactly what was going on.

    • teacherhusband permalink
      January 25, 2011 pm31 1:17 pm 1:17 pm

      From my own personal observations, the UFT seems pretty apathetic toward protecting teachers unless it involves everyone’s salaries. Unless it is salary-based, they tend to just go through the motions with the minimum amount of effort required. I don’t know if they’re just not as strong as they tend to present themselves, if they just can’t go into a war of attrition with the DoE since they have limited funds based on dues versus the DoE’s unlimited coffers based on tax dollars, or what, but they appear to do a lot less than I believed they would do.


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