November 16, 2004 -- EXCLUSIVE
It's the secret manual the city Department of Education wants no teacher to
see - a 61-page blueprint for how to keep New York's Brightest in line without
violating union rules.
The guidebook, drafted by the department's Labor Division and sent to
principals last week, provides a step-by-step outline for rating teachers
unsatisfactory, firing tenured teachers and school aides and preventing
administrators' decisions from being overruled by a judge.
The manual even includes 13 sample letters that principals can reference when
chastising a teacher for insubordination, tardiness and inflicting corporal
A sample letter for inappropriate punishment stresses principals should cite
specific offenses, such as:
"You grabbed John Doe by the arm, twisted it, and ejected him from the
classroom," or, "You called John a 'moron' when he asked you to explain the
Two furious Queens high-school teachers, who chanced upon the manual and gave
a copy to The Post, called it "a blueprint for how to screw over every teacher
in the city."
Word about the manual - which seeks to "ensure greater predictability that
supervisors' actions will not be overturned" - comes as teachers and the city
are engaged in contentious contract talks moving at a sloth-like pace.
Teachers-union President Randi Weingarten was more diplomatic in her
assessment of the document than the Queens teachers, but no less outraged.
"I've never seen a document that is so unbalanced, so focused on finding the
worst in teachers and not even attempting to figure out how to help principals
make their schools better," she complained.
Weingarten added that the document is evidence the Bloomberg administration
never had any intention of signing a contract before the Dec. 1 deadline.
"It's a perfect example of why contract talks have stalled to the brink of
dying," she said.
Jerry Russo, a spokesman for Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, denied there was
any link between the manual and the contract negotiations.
"This is a training and technical assistance manual that is put out
annually," Russo said, adding that the last one was issued in September 2003.
"It's confidential because it offers legal advice to principals."
Jill Levy, president of the union representing school supervisors,
acknowledged there was nothing unusual about the department issuing guidelines
But she said the manuals are not issued annually and have never been so
in-depth or kept confidential.
"Why shouldn't teachers have a copy of this?" Levy asked.
"There is something in here that doesn't make sense to me."