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For 16 former rubber room teachers, city misses its deadline

More than 15 city teachers and staff sent to reassignment centers last year are still waiting for charges to be filed against them, a seeming violation of an agreement between the city and the union.

In April, the city and union agreed to close the reassignment centers — known as “rubber rooms” — and to clear out the backlog of cases by the end of the calendar year. In order to do that, the agreement stated that the city would have 60 days to either file charges against an accused teacher or return her to her school.

For teachers reassigned before September, the agreement gave the city a November 1 deadline to file charges. But according to numbers the city and the union released today, 16 employees that should have received charges are still waiting for them.

“I expect both sides to live up to the terms of the agreement,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

There are actually a total of 36 employees who are still waiting for their charges. But about 20 of those employees are exempt from the agreement’s timetable, a union spokesman said. The agreement lists only four types of cases in which the city may take longer than two months to file charges: when criminal charges have been filed or in cases involving possible sexual misconduct, serious financial impropriety or witness tampering.

Department of Education spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said that November 1 was a “target date” for filing charges. Morgan also said that since the agreement was struck in April, teachers were removed from the classroom at a higher rate than in previous years and so there were too many cases to investigate during the 60-day period.

“Additionally, we believe that in order to be fair to all parties, especially the accused employee, allegations of misconduct must be investigated thoroughly in order to be fair to everyone and we are committed to devoting the time necessary to do a thorough and complete investigation,” Morgan said.

The 60-day deadline was included in the agreement as an incentive for the city to charge teachers rather than remove them from classrooms, give them administrative duties, and not address their cases for months or years. Under the previous system, the six-month deadline to file charges against teachers was sometimes ignored and some teachers sat for months or even years without charges.

Of the remaining employees in the rubber room backlog, most are either currently in the process of having hearings or are waiting for arbitrators to hand down their decision. City officials said today that they are on track to clear the backlog by the year’s end.

Here’s the DOE’s breakdown of the 198 employees who were reassigned before September:

  • 6 are permanently reassigned
  • 28 have 3020-a misconduct hearings currently in progress with the DOE’s Administrative Trials Unit
  • 48 had 3020-a misconduct hearings with the DOE’s Administrative Trials Unit and we are awaiting the decision of the arbitrators
  • 1 has an active case with the DOE’s Office of Equal Opportunity
  • 8 have 3020-a incompetence hearings currently in progress with the DOE’s Teacher Performance Unit
  • 9 had 3020-a incompetence hearings with the DOE’s Teacher Performance Unit and we are awaiting the decision of the arbitrators
  • 57 have cases involving an arrest*
  • 5 have cases currently being investigated by the Special Commissioner of Investigation**
  • 36 have active cases with the DOE’s Office of Special Investigations***

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