Sunday, January 17, 2016

Letter From A Discontinued Teacher

 Today I got this e-mail from a discontinued teacher who asked me to post here.

Disclaimer: At the time of this communication to Aimee Horowitz, there were essentially two things that I knew. 1) Myself and my fellow teacher were intentionally and deliberately set up. Ratings for the state and local measurements came in towards the end of the summer (after the discontinuance) and they were both effective. 2 I didn’t think for one second that Ms. Horowitz would entertain my request to meet with her. I wanted this story to get the publicity that it deserves. Aimee has demonstrated through her actions and inactions that she cares nothing about her teachers and certainly not the students that she represents. All she seems to be concerned about are the numbers for the schools that she oversees.

July 19th
Dear Ms. Horowitz,
Hello Ms. Horowitz I am making one final request that you would kindly find some time in your schedule either this month or next where we would have the opportunity to briefly meet in your Staten Island office and discuss my situation. If you are unwilling to meet with me, or if I don’t hear back from you, then I’m not going to pursue this matter. I am in the process of moving on with my life, and my career. If you choose to ignore or discard this letter and pretend that I don’t even exist, then that is your prerogative but be advised that I intend to make this letter public because I think that people need to be aware of the abuses that are taking place in our schools by administration and it’s directly affecting people like me as well as our students.  I am making this request to hopefully meet because I am in a somewhat depressed state as I look back at the four years that I’ve been teaching in the DOE at Richmond Hill, and all the experiences that I’ve had. I had initially planned on spending the rest of my teaching career in the city schools, and it’s very hard for me to accept the fact that’s it’s ended on a note like this after only four years of service. I just got married so it’s also been a disruption to the life of my spouse as well. In addition to discontinuing me from probationary service, you had originally wanted to recommend termination of my city license. For what reason I have absolutely no idea as there absolutely nothing in my personal file that was even remotely negative other than the four observational reports from January to June of this past year. You then reconsidered and decided just to pursue the discontinuance. I’m happy that you decided against the termination part, but unfortunately that does almost nothing for me. As outraged as I am and as egregious as your decision was, the one thing that I cannot say is that I was surprised. I spent the last couple of months documenting conversations, saving emails, and keeping records (including the 31 single spaced journal of all transactions between December and May that I set you back in June.)
Ms. Horowitz as I mentioned to you in the last email, I understand that you are/were in the unfortunate position where you felt that you had to discontinue a certain number of teachers. I do not believe that the high volume of candidates up for tenure and the number of discontinuances that you had to grant and/or look over in a relatively short time allowed you to spend adequate time evaluating each person’s portfolio and statistics in their entirety. I’m inclined to believe that that may not ben important to you anyway..  Ms. Horowitz I always look for the best in people, and I hope to believe that somewhere within you there is a decent human being that will what’s fair and proper. This is why I believe that a visitation is so essential. Even if you are unwilling to reverse your decision on my behalf…at least you will have all the facts.
With this letter I have attached a letter of recommendation that Mr. Neil Ganesh wrote for me last year highly commending me for the quality of my lessons as well as for my service and commitment to Richmond Hill and my community. I have also attached my satisfactory observation reports from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 under the old “S’ and “U” rating system. I have attached my observational ratings under the Danielson system from last year 2013-2014. My overall score last year under this new system was a “77” I was “effective” in all three categories of local and state measurement.  I had wanted to achieve tenure very badly and (although most of us were granted extensions at the end of last year) I was willing to work all the more harder this year.  In addition to my ratings there’s other information you may not have known about me and if so then you certainly should have. I was never the subject of any investigation or inquiry. For the last three and a half years my file was completely clean. In my portfolio and in my personnel file there were over 24 letters of recognition commending me for my various services to the school. Last year I was rated “highly effective” under the domain of contributions to my school wide community, as well as growing and developing professionally. My attendance and punctuality were immaculate. (In the last four years I was only late once.)
Ms. Horowitz, the final piece of documentation that I have attached is my initial rating from this year where I scored a “2” out of “60” points. Ms. Horowitz with all due respect you must have questioned the gross gross inconsistency and believability of this score when evaluating my performance this year as compared to the last three years as something would appear seriously wrong. The last three years aside, that score all by itself should be enough to raise eyebrows as
Ms. Horowitz at this point in time I have nothing to gain or lose by being truthful about my situation, and I am not going to misrepresent the facts or tell somebody simply what they want to hear. It is my very strong opinion and the opinion of others as well that this year Mr. Ganesh felt that he needed to give a certain number of teachers poor ratings in order to artificially manipulate the school’s statistics favorable to well as for the protection of his own job security due the political circumstances surrounding Richmond Hill. Whatever the case may be, my colleague and I were chosen as teachers to be targeted with poor ratings consequently leading up to both of our discontinuances. This was not an accident or a coincidental. It was very apparent that this was planned ahead of time and done very deliberately. Mr. Ganesh made that very obvious to us and others through his actions and through conversations that were had. (Just like me, my colleague was also an effective teacher with a previously unblemished pedagogical record prior to the arrival of Ms. Christine Peterson.) On numerous occasions Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson were dishonest in their accounts of what took place in my classroom during the observations. (I can very easily substantiate this claim by offering numerous sources of evidence.) Between my colleague and I we both hold several graduate degrees and have been teaching for over a combined decade. In the DOE alone between the two of us there were over five years of solid effective teaching experience without any adverse ratings.
*I also want to make the point that I am not seeking to vilify or chastise people solely for the sake of doing so. Nor am I somebody that is oppositional to negative feedback.  Perhaps one of my greatest strengths that I have always valued is being able to grow and self-evaluate based on collaboration and support from staff and supervisors. Unfortunately it was extremely obvious to me and everybody else who was aware of my situation that neither Mr. Ganesh nor Ms. Peterson had any intention of offering that support since their agenda seemed to be focused in precisely doing the opposite as they were very fixated and intent on getting rid of us.
My next point goes to the heart of my initial argument. *Even if Mr. Ganesh were to see my situation differently which I’m sure would be his first line of defense, then may I offer that there was absolutely no support whatsoever that was initiated by Ganesh and offered to my colleague and I this year.
If Mr. Ganesh truly was of the opinion and had a good faith basis to believe that under very peculiar and mysterious circumstances, two of his former teachers in a high need area with several years of very effective teaching practices/observations went 180 degrees from being these “dedicated, outstanding and fabulous teachers” in which he wrote a glorifying letter of recommendation suddenly mysteriously turning into these incompetent ineffective teachers….than what measure of support has he offered? The answer is none.
*At no point this year was I ever questioned or conferenced in a meeting initiated by Mr. Ganesh regarding “his” perception of the drastic turn that the quality of my lessons were allegedly taking.  *There was never any discussion had between myself and Mr. Ganesh over the possibility of a discontinuance. There was never any improvement plan that was implemented or even talked about. *Every email I sent him addressing my concerns pertaining to my observations was completely ignored by him. *When I complained about the lack of support that I was receiving, and the way that I was being treated by Ms. Peterson, Mr. Ganesh did absolutely nothing nor even acknowledged that he got my complaint. *Other than observations, there was never any classroom visitations conducted by Mr. Ganesh or Ms. Peterson for the purpose of improving instruction. *There was never any modeling or demonstrations done by either of them despite the fact that I asked for this many times throughout the year. *Mr. Ganesh was hardly in my classroom this year. He spent a total of approximately 35 minutes in my classroom this entire year for two observations (one formal and one informal.)  *For the formal observation he spent a total of 15 minutes out of the 47 minutes of the period that he was in my classroom. Yet he spent the entire 47-65 minute period in the classroom for other teachers when their formals were conducted. When he was in my room he was very disengaged in the lesson and what was going on in the classroom and instead was busy on his blackberry.
*Most incomprehensible of all was that in the middle of January (three months before my discontinuance.) which was right around the time that all of this was going on, he agreed to write me a second letter of recommendation for the purpose of switching doctoral programs reaffirming my outstandingness and his own personal philosophy that he is always eager to support those seeking to strive in their mission for success. I soon realized that he had no intention of keeping his word as I was one of the people being targeted.
*None of the conversations or questions that should have been had or asked were. Every single action and inaction that we’ve all witnessed of Mr. Ganesh and his AP this past year would be a direct contradiction to their contention that we suddenly became ineffective ineffective teachers.
Most importantly, the timing of the observations and lack of feedback in a timely manner was a serious issue this year. When you started reviewing our portfolios towards the end of April there were only two observations that were conducted at that time for most people. For me and just about everybody else in my department, the observations themselves only started being conducted in the second half of the school year beginning in the late part of December and concluding by  mid- May. The first observation was written up as entirely “ineffective” but then feedback was given one month later. The second observation which was the formal was conducted at the very end of March and the feedback was again given to me about a month later. The patterns of allowing so much time to elapse absent teacher support in which Ms. Peterson and Mr. Ganesh chose to conduct these observations were in my view extremely unprofessional and non- conducive to any form of growth. *This of course assuming that their opinion about the quality of my lessons is correct.
The last and final point that I wish to make is the working relationship that the ISS department had with Ms. Peterson this past year. I do not wish to sound slanderous or make any personal attacks, but Ms. Peterson’s attitude towards her staff, lack of knowledge, and unprofessionalism revealed to us all somebody who was highly unqualified to serve in her respective position as AP of ISS.  Ms. Peterson has left a lasting impression on her department as well as the school in the very short time that she has been the head of ISS at Richmond Hill. Her substantial lack of knowledge of special education, vindictive nature, and her lack of empathy and abrasiveness towards her staff became the subject of great discussion amongst many staff members as well as students. Richmond Hill has its’ share of problems and the department was/is in need proper and professional leadership to ensure that we “as one” progress in a forward direction. (Not regress.) I say that because you might as well know that half the department is leaving specifically because of her. And the ISS department was a rather large one with close to 20 people. It was of very poor discretion of Mr. Ganesh to appoint her as AP when she had no immediate experience as AP of ISS prior to her appointment which was quite evident to us all in seeing how the department was being so severely mismanaged.
What really hurts the most about this whole experience is the length that both supervisors were willing to stoop down to when creating this false case against my colleague and me. Never was there any single moment in time this year when either Mr. Ganesh or Ms. Peterson offered any sort of support or guidance. As responsible and dedicated teachers we were the ones who attempted to go to them for support and it absolutely sickens me that our efforts were used against us by them.
Both Ms. Peterson and Mr. Ganesh were well aware of the consistent initiatives that my colleague and I often took when seeking to get support, and right after my first “ineffective” observation that was conducted in December, I became extremely concerned over the arbitrariness and dis-alignment to Danielson that the initial observation contained. Nevertheless I “initiated” weekly support meetings with Ms. Peterson for two purposes. Number 1: to cover my basis, and number 2: to improve instruction. Ms. Peterson ignored my request for several weeks and then finally one month later up until the end of the school year we met for a total of 9 times. I became concerned because despite the arranged visitations there was no feedback of substance being given, and the “ineffectives” just continued coming.  I find it unlikely that the support sessions would have even been offered to us if we had not requested them in the first place considering how late in the year and sporadic the observations were when they were given. Perhaps if we hadn’t made this request, then the discontinuance would have been harder to grant.
It was absolutely disgusting to me beyond believe when I saw attached with the discontinuance letter  Ms. Peterson’s log sheet detailing “her” version of what took place at the meetings which was riddled with inaccuracies and misleading claims (which can easily be substantiated by me) used as evidence against me by her and Mr. Ganesh making it appear as though they offered support but we were just so horrible that their effort was in vein.  *My colleague and I both had several years of nothing but positive records and observational reports. We suddenly and unexpectedly started receiving nothing but ineffective ratings. As far as I know my colleague and I were the only two teachers in the entire ISS department who made arrangements to get weekly support. Despite our weekly visitations we were continuously and consistently rated “ineffective” and subsequently were the only two teachers in the department to be discontinued.
What are the chances of that happening?
I’m sure Ms. Horowitz that you can appreciate our perception in that there was clearly an ulterior motive had here, and that we see something seriously wrong with what took place this year. I personally am having a tremendously (tremendous is a gross understatement) hard time believing that the actions of Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson were undertaken in good faith.
I’ll even entertain the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Even if there was no wrong doing here, perhaps our scenarios are a testament to and speak volumes about the levels of incompetence displayed and inability in the proper coaching and mentorship of those in need exhibited by Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson this entire year that just passed.
The way that my colleague and I were treated by Ganesh and Peterson this year (as well as many other teachers and students in the building) was absolutely disgusting.  Because of his inactions and wrong actions Mr. Ganesh lost all respect this year not only from my colleague and I, but also from many of his other staff members as well as his students, the parents of his students, and members of the community. His approval ratings amongst his staff is significantly lower that the citywide average. Mr. Ganesh has not earned the respect amongst his staff and community that he serves. The following websites videos would certainly indicate that that  sentiment is shared by many:
You know what’s really sad and ironic about this whole experience superintendent Horowitz? Aside from our own personal tragedies, the most unfortunate thing about this whole experience is that my colleague and were only trying to help and do what’s best for our students. We were both dedicated teachers in the extreme and have been extremely active in effectively fulfilling our respective roles at Richmond Hill. Your discontinuing of us is not helping the school in the least, in fact I see it as being entirely counter-productive as we are likely to be replaced by somebody far less experienced or perhaps even less altruistic. My colleague and I hold more than one graduate degree and have been teaching for a combined decade. We’ve taught for a combined total of eight years in the DOE. Five of those eight years were completely effective. We were both highly effective in domains dealing with service to the school and taking on the responsibility of assuming leadership roles.
Ms. Horowitz, in conclusion I just want to mention that despite this very bad year, my experiences in my school have been positive for the vast majority of the time in the last four years that I’ve been there. I have had the pleasure of working with very good people. I have a tremendous respect for the majority of those in my line of work who are genuinely interested in changing the lives and minds of young people. Although my experience this year was not good, I am absolutely convinced that I consistently acted and displayed a level of professionalism, dedication, willingness to learn and grow, and deep commitment to my students and staff of whom I work with. Unfortunately this was not reciprocated. I have absolutely nothing to apologize about as I have done nothing that I am ashamed of or embarrassed about. Of course I feel that my rating this year should be erased from my record (I am presently fighting to have that happen) and I should be re-appointed with tenure. Assuming that’s not going to me case, I would like to at least be granted another year of probation. This will make the process of leaving Richmond Hill and securing a position elsewhere exponentially easier. I also think that there should be at minimum an inquiry directed at Mr. Ganesh for his role and compliance in this situation. When examining all of the evidence we all just can’t help but believe that Mr. Ganesh knowingly and deliberately violated his position of power by intentionally misusing the Danielson framework to achieve personal gain. Ms. Peterson was complicit in his act. What has me deeply concerned, is that if he was willing and able to do this to us, then I see no reason why they’re not willing to do it to other teachers in the future. Both individuals in my estimation are completely unworthy of their respective positions, and should be removed promptly as they are only dragging Richmond Hill deeper into the muck that it now finds itself.
If none of the above happen, than I may as well mention that my conscience is absolutely clear in knowing that I was discontinued due to circumstances beyond my immediate control and that I did absolutely everything that I possibility could to protect myself in such unfortunate times. I am happy to report that I have the love and support of those who knew of my situation, and unfortunately I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Ms. Horowtiz, I sincerely hope that you are able to say the same.
Thank you for your time in reading my letter,


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this letter is voicing what all too many teacher "new" and "old" are feeling. NO ONE wants to be a teacher anymore. I can't wait to run out the door to retirement. This was/is a profession I loved! So sad.

Anonymous said...

This is not the first story of its kind nor will it be the last you will read about. I find it interesting that all I read about is the lack of knowledge in a content area of an AP. When I first started teaching, the chairman of a department was the "master teacher" that everyone would run to. My current AP has no teaching experience in his content area, special education, nor does he understand our students. I don't understand how the qualifications on paper make a department head!