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The E-Accountability Foundation announces the

'A for Accountability' Award

to those who are willing to whistleblow unjust, misleading, or false actions and claims of the politico-educational complex in order to bring about educational reform in favor of children of all races, intellectual ability and economic status. They ask questions that need to be asked, such as "where is the money?" and "Why does it have to be this way?" and they never give up. These people have withstood adversity and have held those who seem not to believe in honesty, integrity and compassion accountable for their actions. The winners of our "A" work to expose wrong-doing not for themselves, but for others - total strangers - for the "Greater Good"of the community and, by their actions, exemplify courage and self-less passion. They are parent advocates. We salute you.

Winners of the "A":

Johnnie Mae Allen
David Possner
Dee Alpert
Joan Klingsberg
Harris Lirtzman
Hipolito Colon
Jim Calantjis
Larry Fisher
The Giraffe Project and Giraffe Heroes' Program
Jimmy Kilpatrick and George Scott
Zach Kopplin
Matthew LaClair
Wangari Maathai
Erich Martel
Steve Orel, in memoriam, Interversity, and The World of Opportunity
Marla Ruzicka, in Memoriam
Nancy Swan
Bob Witanek
Peyton Wolcott
[ More Details » ]
 
The Grievance Process
How to file a grievance or complaint against the New York City Department of Education.
          
The A-660 Chancellor's Regulations outline the process for writing a grievance, or a complaint, against a School leader/staff/ or other member of the New York City Department of Education. E-Accountability.com has no information on any grievance filed by a parent which was responded to in a timely fashion or any problem which was resolved through this process. In fact, the 11/14/02 re-vised rules for Grievances listed in the A-660 Chancellor's Regulations under Chancellor's Responsibilities (p.43) show very clearly the disdain the Department of Education has for parents. The process described in this section not only does not work, because Superintendants and the Chancellor do not comply with the regulations listed therein, but STEP 3 is alluded to and then omitted. In addition, the Chancellor and the Office of Parent Outreach supports the process of establishing a Review Committee to remove officers of a PA. E-Accountability.com believes that the Review Committee process is unconstitutional, and must not be included in any Bylaws. (see Booker T. Washington Review Committee. The members of this committee were sued in Supreme Court on June 24, 2002, and the process as well as the Defendants in this case will be named in a Federal lawsuit charging civil rights violations.) Step 3 in the previous A-660s provided the person who filed a complaint or grievance the option of appealing the decision, or no response, of the Chancellor by sending the complaint and all supporting documents to the Commissioner of Education at the New York State Education Department, currently Mr. Richard Mills. The person, or Petitioner, could file a Verified Petition (also called an "Education Lawsuit") with a request for a Stay order and other remedies. This is a serious omission by the New York City Department of Education's Office of Legal Services, in particular Ms Susan Holtzman, who informed E-Accountability.com that she was the person who re-vised the A-660s. If Chancellor Klein does not respond to a complaint, as E-Accountability.com alleges happens constantly, there is no recourse for anyone except to file a lawsuit (see Article78.com). E-Accountability.com encourages any parent who has an incident serious enough to pursue with a grievance obtain legal help, file a Notice of Claim immediately against the education official involved, and discuss legal action without going through the grievance process, which is basically a waste of time for everyone. Nevertheless, there are certain guidelines to follow if going this route:

If your complaint involves any physical abuse, proven theft, or other criminal activity, go to your school's nearest police precinct and file a complaint there. Obtain a copy, and keep it in your possession. Start a diary, and list the time, date, and person(s) involved in the incident as well as the person with whom you spoke at the police station. Call the station every few days and keep track of the investigation. Ask for a copy of any findings. Based upon this investigation, hire a lawyer to pursue the matter in court.

If your child has been physically abused in any way, file a complaint with the police immediately. Do not file a grievance, and do not listen to any school official who tries to dissuade you from filing a complaint with the police. Enter all data into your diary, and keep a file with a copy of all letters, conversations, complaints, police reports, etc.

If your complaint involves theft or possible verbal abuse of your child, go immediately to the Principal with a description of everything that you know of the incident, and send a copy to the Chancellor and the Office of Special Investigations. If the Principal does not reply to your complaint within 1 week, start the Grievance process outlined below, and call the Office of Special Investigations to obtain guidance from the person in charge of the case. Get your case number and put this number in your file with your diary of every telephone call made to anyone concerning your complaint. If your complaint ends up in court you will have a complete record of everything that happened.

Grounds: A grievance must be based on violation of a PA's or PC's bylaws, or applicable law, policy or Regulation. A grievance may be filed if there are violations of the law or regulations, such as those listed in "The Green Book" ( Chancellor's Regulations for School Leadership Teams), by members of the School Leadership Team. Get a copy of the PA/PTA Bylaws and School Leadership Team Bylaws for your school. Read the Chancellor's Regulations and monitor the elections for your PA/PTA Executive Board and School Leadership Teams.

Standing: Any parent, whether or not a PA or PC (Parent Council) member, may bring a grievance, as may a PA or PC member, a PA or PC, an official or employee of a school, community school district, central office or division, or an interested party. The Chancellor's Regulations state that : Grievance - "Any parent, whether or not a PA member, may bring a grievance, as may a PA member or a PA."[Article I, Parent Associations, Section E. "Rights and Responsibilities" 1. PA Rights, h., p.17 ].

Enforcement - "PAs and PA members must be allowed to exercise their rights freely and without fear of penalty or reprisal. They have the right to be treated fairly by association and school officials and to file a grievance for enforcement of their rights." [Article I, Section E, 1. i ].

Questions about the PA or PTA, issues involving the students, teachers, Principal or administrative staff (not assault or other complaints of criminal action, and not questions concerning inclusion, Individualized Education Plans [IEPs], or Resources for Special Education):

1. should be addressed in the first instance to the PA/PTA President, at a meeting attended by other parents. The PA/ PTA President may have the answers, or may refer the questions to the Principal or Office of Parent Partnerships at the District Office or High School Superintendancy. You may also ask the PA/PTA President to bring up the matter at the next President/Parent Council meeting and at the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) meeting. The parent asking questions should avoid making any accusations, but remain focused on asking for information, because at this point the goal is to gather information and to obtain the support of others in the quest for answers.

2. If the questions are not answered at this level, then a letter can be written asking the questions in a more formal way, and this letter is then sent to the Superintendant of the District and the School Board. A Grievance must be filed with the appropriate Superintendant within 30 days of the event complained of, or within 30 days after the event is discovered. Do not miss these deadlines, or you will have no recourse but to drop your complaint. A copy should be sent to the Chancellor and the Director of Parent Outreach at Tweed Courthouse or at 131 Livingston Street. This is a Grievance, and all supporting documents should be copied and sent along attached to thecomplaint. If sending the documents by mail, always obtain proof of mailing, such as "mail delivery confirmation" from the post office. (Educrats cannot, therefore, say that they did not receive the document). You may send an email to the Chancellor (JKlein@nycboe.net) to notify him that a grievance has been filed.

3. The A-660 regulations state that "A decision shall be rendered by the community school board or Chancellor's District, appropriate high school or citywide programs superintendant within 30 days of receipt of the grievance."
We do not know how this will change with the community school boards disappearing after June 30, but at the present time, the complaint should be sent to the Superintendant as listed above. The regulations state further that "the decision shall be in writing and include findings of fact, where appropriate. If a decision is not possible because of a continuing investigation or a referral to other authorities, ..{officials} must issue a response reflecting that fact within the 30 day period and including a projected date for final decision. Where interim remedies are appropriate, they must be included in the response." E-Accountability.com is not aware of any school official who complied with this timetable.

4.The superintendant's determination may be appealed to the Chancellor. The appeal must be filed within 15 days of the receipt of the decision that is being appealed. If you have filed the Grievance with the Superintendant and you have waited 30 days without receipt of a determination, then you may appeal to the Chancellor within 15 days after the 30-day deadline for the superintendant, even though you have not received a response. Education officials will penalize you if you do not abide by these deadlines, despite their non-compliance. The Chancellor may issue an injunction staying the superintendant's decision. The Regulations state that the Chancellor "shall issue a letter acknowledging receipt of the grievance and the date of receipt" (p.46). E-Accountability.com has never seen such a letter, and we are not aware of any official complying with this regulation. The Chancellor's decision, the regulations add, "shall be made in writing, rendered within 30 days after receipt." E-Accountability.com is not aware of the Chancellor complying with this regulation, therefore he is violating his own regulations. The A-660 regulations also state (p. 46) that "If a decision [by the Chancellor] is not possible, due to a continuing investigation or referral to other authorities, the Chancellor shall issue a response reflecting that fact within the 30-day period and including a projected date for final decision. Where interim remedies are appropriate, they shall be included in the response. Response under this paragraph is subject to appeal under Step 3, as is any decision by the Chancellor [p.46]. E-Accountability.com has not found any "Step 3" in the revised 11/14/02 A-660s.

Expedited Appeal for Election Disputes [p.47]

The A-660s give directions for filing a complaint in the case of an election dispute which supposedly speeds up the response time by the Superintendant and/or the Chancellor. E-Accountability.com is not aware of any compliance by a Superintendant or the Chancellor under this regulation. As the election process for PA/PTA Executive Boards and School Leadership Teams in most schools violate one or more regulations in order to keep the "right" people in power, E-Accountability.com offers a list below of the most common violations currently occurring in NYC public schools, with the compliance assistance of the Office of Parent Outreach and President Council members, as well as CPAC:

1. No nominating committee, merely a few parents calling people they want for each position who show up at the election and are "appointed".

2. No sign-in sheet at the door of the PA/PTA election with ID required so that all parents and teachers must verify that they are the parent of a student in the school. Anyone, therefore, can attend an election, even if they do not have a student in the school.

3. No paper ballot for the voters, just a show of hands.

4. Ballots are sent home in student backpacks for parents to check off who they want, and are then returned by the student to the school for tabulation.

5. The ballot box is removed from the room by people "appointed" to count the votes. These people either bring the results back to the general meeting or tell everyone that the results will be announced at the next meeting.

Any other violations should be emailed to info@ParentAdvocates.org.

The A-660s offer the following for expedited appeals of election disputes:

Step 1. Grievances Filed with Community School Board or Chancellor's District, Appropriate High School or Citywide Programs Superintendant

A Grievance must be filed within seven days of the election for "expedited appeal" [italics added by E-Accountability.com]. Grievances not filed within this time period may proceed under the regular grievance timetable. [E-Accountability.com suggests that all complaints be filed even though they are ignored, as this starts the process for notice by higher officials and courts at a later date].

A decision shall be rendered by the Community School Board, Chancellor's District, or appropriate superintendant within seven (7) days of receipt of the grievance. [If there is no answer, or an answer which you feel is inappropriate, go to Step 2].

Step 2. Appeal to the Chancellor

The Community School Board, Chancellor's district, or appropriate superintendant's determination may be appealed to the Chancellor. The appeal to the Chancellor must be filed within three days of receipt of the decision which is being appealed. [E-Accountability.com suggests that all persons filing appeals under this expedited process not miss this deadline, even though we have no information on compliance by the Chancellor].Do not miss this deadline.

The Chancellor's decision shall be in writing, rendered seven (7) days after filing. [E-Accountability.com is not aware of the Chancellor's compliance with this regulation.]

The A-660s further state (p. 47) that "PAs and PCs may agree to alternative conflict resolution processes, subject to the limitations in this section. A PA or PC cannot agree or bind itself or its members to any agreement or decision which conflicts with law, policy or regulation. E-Accountability.com suggests that PAs or PCs who violate the law, policy or regulation in a way that is compatible with what the District education officials want will be allowed to stand; alternatively, if the law, policy or regulations are complied with, and the result is not approved of by District officials, the officials will retaliate against the PA or not respond to a complaint brought by "favored few" who will try to unseat any PA Executive Board member elected to a seat fairly but is willing to speak out against violations. [see Retaliation section].

Certification [A-660s, p.48]

Principals shall have the responsibility to be aware of the PA's activities as they relate to compliance with the Department of Education policy, Chancellor's regulations and their own Bylaws. Principals shall file reports twice per year with the Superintendants regarding the status of the PA. The reports shall include copies of the appropriate PA financial reports and other supporting documentation, as applicable. The reports shall be filed with the Superintendants by October 30th and February 15th of each school year. These forms are: G.1 and G2. [E-Accountability.com suggests that many Principals enforce the violations of the law, policy or regulations going on at the school by supporting any PA/PTA Executive Board member who is willing to support him/her. Many Principals have the blind support of the Superintendant and the School Board in assuring anyone who tries to whistleblow misappropriations, missing IEPs, abuse, or other actions incompatible with the law, policy or regulations any or all of the following: retaliation, a "U" rating, or other punishments].

Enforcement (A-660s, p.49)

The Chancellor shall designate the office to be responsible for monitoring the implementation of and compliance with this Regulation. All PA bylaws, PC bylaws, consultation procedures established by Community School Boards and appropriate Superintendants and any other policies or procedures related to PAs which may be established by Community School Boards or Superintendants must be submitted to the office designated by the Chancellor for review.

The Chancellor or his/her designee shall monitor compliance with Department of Education policy and Chancellor's Regulations. Upon finding a failure to comply, the Chancellor may direct the proper school authorities to take corrective action, including the imposition of sanctions and disciplinary actions as appropriate. [E-Accountability.com has found city-wide violations written into PA/PTA Bylaws and SLT Bylaws, as well as violations of each at most of the public schools reviewed. We suggest that either the Chancellor does not review the Bylaws in accordance with this section, or the Chancellor ignores the violations. In either case, the Chancellor is not in compliance with the regulations].

Services Provided by Central Headquarters [A-660s p. 49]

The Office of Parent Outreach and Leadership Development (OPO&LD, formerly Office of Parent Advocacy and Engagemment) shall:

a. in conjunction with the Office of Special investigations, work with superintendancies to address PA financial concerns [E-Accountability.com suggests our research shows that the Office of special investigations will, once notified about a complaint filed against a PA for financial misappropriations, will work to retaliate against the person making the complaint, not the PA].

b. In conjunction with the superintendancies, train parent liaisons in implementing, interpreting, and clarifying Chancellor's Regulation A-660, and provide technical assistance to local PAs. [E-Accountability.com suggests that the training becomes Implementing the Delphi Technique", and the technical assistance may violate the Law if necessary to support the wrong-doing and retaliate against whistleblowers - see the Booker T. Washington Review Committee].

c. Act as the agent of the Chancellor concerning PAs. [E-Accountability.com thus holds the Chancellor accountable for not complying with the A-660s].

d. Be available to answer questions and to provide technical assistance regarding interpretation and implementation of this Regulation. [E-Accountability suggests that this is complied with only when the answers agree with the DOE's interests. Central headquarters will never say that anyone who works for the DOE is in error. Instead, education officials state that whatever non-compliance there seems to be is the fault of the parent, or child].

e. Issue memoranda to clarify and interpret this Regulation, as required [E-Accountability.com suggests that anything can be written about anything, and read as if it was "official" even when violating the Law and Regulations].

f. Be available for consultation on PA issues. [E-Accountability.com suggests that members of OPO&LD will be available as long as they believe you can be 'convinced' that you are mistaken in whatever complaint you are filing. Central headquarters officials will not speak with you or respond to your letters/telephone calls if they believe you cannot be 'convinced' of their perspective].

E-Accountability.com on Serving the Grievance/Verified Petition:

If delivering the documents by hand, ask for a receipt or some proof of delivery. Faxing the documents as an additional support is advised, or you can email the documents, if you have access to a computer and a scanner. Keep the emails you send in your filing cabinet. Wait 30 days. If there is no sufficient resolution or answer, send a copy of the original document and all materials with a cover letter to the Chancellor. The cover letter should describe the original complaint and the actions taken up to this point. Reference should be made to the A-660s and the relevant alleged violations. Send copies to the Mayor and the new Education Panel. School Leadership Team Bylaws Violations and Conclusion:

Some of the many actions which the politico-educational complex take when a grievance is received are:

1.no response. This tactic is very successful in silencing anyone who does not have the time to devote to a complaint and comply with all the deadlines which the Department of Education do not comply with. An example of this is the grievance filed against the Principal of PS 30M, where a group of parents received no response from the Superintendant and Chancellor, and the problem became out-of-date, as there was no response from the DOE; the School Leadership Team Bylaws of PS 6 violated Open Government Laws, but a request to change the Bylaws was ignored because the Principal did not want parents to be involved at that level, and the Bylaws were never changed; another example is the Verified Petition filed on September 28, 2001 with Commissioner Mills against Mrs. Patricia Romandetto, Superintendant of District 3 in Manhattan, and the District 3 OPO&LD representative Ms. DJ Sheppard, for setting up a Review Committee, taking a $13,783.77 check from the PTA and not returning it, leaving 10+ children off the roster of the school all of whom were in full inclusion but received no services and were harassed, a fraudulent CEP handed into the District by the Principal, and harassment of parents by the Principal (Larry Lynch) and a teacher. Commissioner Mills waited to answer this appeal until January, 2003, and told the Petitioner that the problems in the Verified Petition were moot because the complaint was not timely and the issues had been resolved due to the length of time which had passed.

2. retaliation. Section I E.1.h&i of the Chancellor's Regulations gives parents the right to file a grievance and the right to receive no retaliation for exercising that right. E-Accountability has found that grievances are almost never responded to, and parents and teachers who dare to write one are intimidated or harassed into silence, in violation of the Chancellor's Regulations. Parents are often found to be "guilty" of whatever the DOE accuses them of, despite a total disregard for any defense by the accused, or, in legal terms, without any due process.

Letter To politicians and BOE officials, May 24, 2002: LETTER I EMAILED TODAY [On Wednesday, May 15, 2002, the Board of Education held a public hearing on parent involvement in New York City public schools. Many parents testified in support of this policy, but also discussed how the Board does not, indeed, want parent involvement unless the interests of the BOE are maintained. Former Chancellor Harold Levy did not attend, although he gave a short interview to reporters standing outside the BOE building just before the hearing began. Previous testimony in February at the City Council Education Committee hearings on Mayoral control over the Board of Education also provided instances of total disregard by BOE officials and employees at all levels for the needs, high achievement, and well-being of public school children in this city. At a Baruch College breakfast in February 2002 Mrs. Ninfa Segarra told everyone that she, President of the Board of Education, and speaking for the rest of the Board, never listened to parents. She asked that the Board of Education be abolished..... ] The New York City education hierarchy is powerful, huge, and historically accountable to no one. The takeover by Mayor Mike Bloomberg of the New York City Board of Education (now called the Department of Education, at a cost, we heard, of $2 million) and the overhaul of the School Construction Authority is creating a new sense of optimism among educational reform activists, but the short-term and long-term results of the efforts of previous mayors and politicians determined to bring change to the public schools in New York City have, in the past, either been non-existent or disappointing. The Board of Education has recently made an effort to involve parents with the establishment of a state-wide law (State Plan 100.11) which has created a school-based governance mandate and School Leadership Teams (SLTs). A School Leadership Team (SLT) must have a minimum of 10 members and 50% must be parents. The purpose of the SLT is to write the Comprehensive Education Plan, which outlines the goals and strategies for all programs and services within a school. E-Accountability.com has researched the compliance of several SLTs across the New York City area with the "Green Book" or Ch ancellor's Regulations governing SLTs, and have found that many Teams have simply opened up new pockets for misappropriating funds away from the children who should be the beneficiaries. The most common of these violations are:

1. little or no accurate data given to Team members by the school leaders, so that the CEP is not reflective of the needs of the children, and the goals and strategies are unrealistic, or simply wrong, leading to misappropriations of funds;

2. the SLT allocation from the State is secretly allocated to non-school related events or activities; the amount of money given to the Team is never accurately reported; there is no financial liaison for the Team who oversees allocation of the SLT funds; no one is accountable for how the money is used,;

3. there are obvious violations of Open Government Laws and Open Meetings Law, as shown in Bylaws which prohibit any attendance by anyone not on the Team;

3. the school leaders never show up at meetings, write the CEP by themselves, or cancel meetings;

4. members of the Team gang up against a Team member to oust them from their seat if they speak out against the Principal, administrators or teachers in any way, even with good reason, and no one at the DOE assists in keeping the SLT whole;

4. the regulations do not specify who is accountable for non-compliance, therefore requests made to the SLT Department of Education officials, the Office of Parent Outreach or the Chancellor's office, and even the Urban League (recipient of $millions to train SLT members) to find out who may be accountable for rectifying violations of SLT Bylaws turned up nothing, with everyone called saying "The parent should look into dropping the matter, or getting a lawyer."

5. SLT elections are ignored, invalidated, or just not held at all in order for the Team members to be appointed by the Principal, or other members of the politico-educational complex. Thus Grievances are almost never answered, and conflicts are never resolved through this process.

E-Accountability contacted the Chancellor's office and requested guidance on where parents could have their Grievances heard. We have received no response. The new Director of the Office of Parent Outreach at the Tweed Courthouse is Victor Capellan, who moved with new Deputy Chancellor Diana Lam from Providence Rhode Island to New York in August. He can be reached at 212-374-6018. He has not responded to telephone calls made by E-Accountability.com to his office.

 
© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation