Government Lies, Corruption and Mismanagement
David Pakter, a NYC Teacher and Whistleblower of the NYC Board of Education's Corrupt Practices, Sues in Federal Court
A timeless article re-posted from 2009: Four years and four New York City Board of Education re-assignment centers ("rubber rooms") later, David Pakter completes his journey to hold the New York City Board of Education accountable for taking him away from his very successful career in the New York City public school system as an excellent teacher, and dumping him into the dungeons of the NYC rubber rooms. For what? For trying to expose racial discrimination at one school, and buying plants for the lobby at another. I've been there to see it all, and it's quite a story of retaliation and vindictiveness by the NYC BOE against a teacher who did the right thing and would not be silenced. by Betsy Combier
Betsy's note: David Pakter is a teacher who will teach again. His lesson will be perhaps not for the children he taught at the High School of Art and Design in New York City, but for adult learners who need to know how to stop the abuse by the New York City Department of Education of teachers who whistleblow what is happening in the City Schools.
UPDATE January 2013:
David taped the disciplinary meeting with Principal Nieto of Fashion Industries, where he was appointed after he was freed from the rubber rooms. Nieto and Michael La Forgia were recorded as they asked him about how to accept his offer of giving the school $10,000 as a donation, without incurring any repercussions from the NYC DOE. When the charges came in that he was being accused of selling watches and bringing plants into the building, he knew that he had a gem in his little digital recorder. When Principal Nieto came in to testify for the NYC DOE about the horribly insubordinate named David Pakter, David made sure that he had the tape in his jacket pocket, and he also brought a tape playback machine.
Principal Nieto settled in as her NYC DOE Attorney Laura Brantley started the direct examination. Nieto testified that she tried to get David to abide by school rules, in vain. She spent alot of time on the "meeting" at which she admonished David for bringing in plants, when the school had rules to follow. And she went on and on, oblivious to the fact that she was totally not truthful. She was quite credible in telling her lies under oath.
Then, it was David's NYSUT Attorney Chris Callagy's turn to cross-examine. Chris is a very handsome, talented actor ...opps, I mean lawyer...who loves to be 'on'. In that sense, he is one of the best attorneys that NYSUT has, as he can ask great questions without the party being asked these questions realizing they are not able to, or dont want to, answer, He started by asking really simple questions, and then switched to a style whereby he asked at the start of every question, "Isn't it true that....." as in, words to the effect of, "Isn't it true that the meeting that you just described was not held to discuss David Pakter's insubordination, but a huge, generous gift of money?" "Isn't it true that you did not discuss discipline?" etc.
Nieto just did not get it until several minutes into the cross. Suddenly, she sat up and, looking straight at Chris, said, in effect, "Wait a minute.....was this meeting taped???"
Chris said, "could be...."
DOE Attorney Laura Brantley stood up and said to Arbitrator Doug Bantle and Chris, "come outside with me now!."
Chris, Doug Bantle and Laura Brantley went outside. When Chris and Doug Bantle came back in, Bantle announced that Laura Brantley had quit the case, and that he had to adjourn until the NYC DOE found
another attorney to take her place. Approximately two weeks later, Phil Oliveri came in as Brantley's replacement, and he did the best he could. The Department wanted to bring in a third set of charges which would be heard at the third 3020-a, but Bantle combined the new charges into the on-going hearing.
Evidently the UFT and the DOE Gotcha Squad(s) didn't like this, and, stunning news came into the hearing when Arbitrator Bantle brought in his letter firing him from the NYC Panel.
The Gotcha Squad MUST remain in control.
Now, back to the 2009 article:
I dont think there are many people who know David Pakter's story who would say that he was placed in four re-assignment centers ("rubber rooms") in New York City by the New York City Board of Education for good reason - or any reason. His first round of rubber room sitting occurred after he refused, in September 2004, to stand by and allow the Principal of Art and Design to remove music from the multi-ethnic students at this high school, while an elementary class from PS 59 moved into the high school music rooms.(The school has since moved to East 63rd Street - Editor). Pakter asserts that he was viciously retaliated against and harassed because he reported evidence of criminal wrongdoing, including ongoing violations of Federal Civil Rights statutes (as well as unnecessary window construction work and repairs at his school), to the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District.
Specifically, Pakter asserted that the immediate impetus for Pakter to contact both the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation and write the Chancellor directly was an act of retaliation perpetrated against Pakter by the school Principal Madeleine Appell, who had determined that the only foreign language that the students were to be exposed to was Spanish -- the language which most of the school's students spoke before they learned English. David had ordered enrichment materials and books on countless occasions, during his 37-year-career, (and been praised for doing so), and had ordered a set of books for his gifted Medical Illustration students titled "French in 10 Minutes a Day" to be used as an enrichment activity. On Friday afternoon, Sept. 26, 2003, an Assistant Principal named Harold Mason entered Pakter's locked Medical room, at close to 5 PM to present Pakter with a letter formally charging Pakter with ordering and distributing books to his students. The letter cited an enclosed Chancellor's Regulation A-610, entitled "Fund Raising Activities and Collection of Money from Students", said regulation having no relationship to the ordering of books.
David says he was ludicrously charged with ordering the set of French books because the school was determined not to allow the teaching of any language other than Spanish in the school, even to students for whom Spanish was their birth language and that both the Principal as well as the Assistant Principal were fully aware and informed that he had violated no rule or regulation in ordering books for his students.
David videotaped the PS 59 children because he wanted to do the right thing, and expose what he believed to be racial discrimination at the High School of Art and Design. David is a NYC public school teacher, after all, and a mandated reporter of the NYC public school system. The kids from PS 59 were mostly white. In fact, David says, Madeleine Appell, the Principal of A & D High School, had accepted, under a Special Budget line (Blue Print for the Arts), almost $ 75,000 to guarantee Music to the High School students but had in fact, gotten rid of Music at the school. Ms. Appell was a contributor to the writing of "Blueprints For the Visual Arts" - see page. 2, which many people wondered about. Did she give heself a grant? David wanted to know where that money went. He asked the music teacher if he could video the kids from PS 59 for his own use, and she said yes. Approximately one hour after the videotaping, David says that Principal Madeleine Appell entered his classroom and interrupted him while he was teaching, to demand the videotape he had made of the music class -- a demand Pakter refused. He was ordered to attend a meeting after school later that day at which time Principal Appell again repeatedly demanded the Music videotape and which demand was again refused by Pakter.
The following day, Sept. 23, 2004, Principal Madeleine Appell called a Special Faculty Conference after normal school hours to announce that she had decided to retire forthwith as Principal of the school. We hear that she was hired by CUNY Kingsborough Community College.
David adds: "The New York Dept of Education made an offer on or about Sept. 27. 2004 to the effect that if I would surrender a video tape in my possession that documented a serious, unacceptable and illegal form of discrimination taking place at the High School of Art and Design, I would be returned to my former position as Instructor of Medical Illustration."
He again refused, and was quickly removed from the school and assigned to a rubber room. Later, new Principal John Lachky only allowed him one single day, a Saturday, to pack and remove twenty five years of books, personal records and personally owned Medical items from the school premises. In the weeks previous to the single afternoon he was allowed to return to the building, his metal storage cabinets had been entered and rifled through by his immediate supervisor at the school, Mary Ann Geist-Deninno. A police report documents that thousands of dollars of Pakter's property was stolen, removed or destroyed.
David reports that a full half-year after he was removed from the school, he received telephone calls from two different teachers from the school that his former Supervisor, Mary Ann Geist-Deninno entered his former Medical Illustration room accompanied by a computer expert named Amir Faroun and claimed later the same day that she had found "pornographic material" on one of the open access computers that students used on a daily basis. When Ms. Geist-Deninno reported this "discovery" to the Office of Special Investigations, investigators arrived at the school and were stunned to learn the computer Ms. Geist-Deninno wished them to examine was a computer that everyone in the school had access to day and night. Including Ms. Geist-Deninno. The investigators recommended she store the computer in a closet. Four weeks after mailing his letter to the Medical Office, Mr. Lachky, like the previous Principal, chose to retire.
Despite the information stated immediately above, a full five months after Ms. Geist-Deninno reported her "discovery", the former Principal John Lachky wrote and personally signed a letter memorializing Geist-Deninno's "discovery" to the Director of the Medical Office of the New York Department of Education, Dr. Audrey Jacobson, M.D. Mr. Lachky, in reporting Geist-Deninno's "discovery" made 5 months earlier, suggested that Pakter be interviewed by the Medical Office.
David was the teacher for the only medical illustration course in New York City, at the High School for Art and Design. He was cited by Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the 'Teacher of the Year' in 1997. To understand David's case, click here to read a letter he wrote to Chancellor Klein on October 2, 2003 about the racial discrimination in New York public schools, and former NYCBOE Counsel Chad Vignola's response. Chad Vignola was fired by Joel Klein when he allowed Deputy Chancellor Diana Lam to hire her husband for a position in the NYC BOE without getting a clearance from the Conflict of Interest Board. Or so the story goes...(there is always more that the public never hears about).
"Sadly, rather than respond to my letter, Chancellor Klein delegated that responsibility to his former General Counsel, Chad Vignola, Esq. who only months after I wrote the Chancellor, was forced to resign in disgrace for his part in the Diana Lam cover up scandal in which Deputy Chancellor Lam attempted to illegally place her husband in a high paying DOE job in a manner contrary to State and
Any person reading Chad Vignola's letter to me on behalf of Mr. Klein cannot fail to observe that Mr. Vignola fails to address a single issue that was raised in my letter to the Chancellor."
David was ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination by the New York City Department of Education: "The Medical Office has set up an appointment for me to meet with a Psychologist by the name of Dr. Richard Schuster, Ph.D., Panel Psychologist, at "Comprehensive Rehabilitation Consultants", at 275 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, on Friday, August 19, 2005." Although he was informed he would be interviewed by Schuster for about five hours, David in fact was asked to spend two full consecutive days at Schuster's office taking over fifty pages of examinations.
On the second day, July 27, 2005, Schuster administered a version of the 567 question MMPI-2 Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which had just been declared an illegal employee Medical Examination in a Unanimous Seventh Circuit panel decision, six weeks earlier. (See: Unanimous Seventh Circuit panel, Karraker v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 11142 ,June 14, 2005). Then on August 16, 2005, he received a letter from the Medical Office, signed by the Medical Director, Dr. Audrey Jacobson, M.D., stating that based on the examinations Schuster had administered, Pakter was "not currently fit for duty".
David says that Dr. Jacobson signed that letter, which effectively ended Pakter's employment with the New York City Dept. of Education, despite the fact that Pakter was later informed that Dr. Jacobson had never bothered to read the complete official version of the results of the MMPI Examination administered on her orders, which stated on several different pages, in particular page 3:
"His MMPI-2 clinical and content scales are within normal limits. No clinical symptoms were reported".
Immediately on being notified of the claim of the Medical Office Director Dr. Audrey Jacobson that Pakter was not "fit for duty", David attempted to avail himself of the remedy specified in Dr. Jacobson's letter: that he "may request an independent evaluation by a medical arbitrator." His NYSUT attorney sent a certified letter to Dr. Jacobson memorializing Pakter's demand for medical arbitration and the United Federation of Teachers simultaneously filed in a timely manner. To obtain another opinion on his fitness to teach, David and his NYSUT attorney sought and obtained the services of the eminent Forensic Psychiatrist, Dr. Alberto M. Goldwaser, M.D., D.F.A.P.A. After a lengthy and expert evaluation, and also careful study of hundreds of pages of documents including the documents and reports utilized by Dr. Jacobson in making her own evaluation, Dr. Alberto Goldwaser concluded that there was no scientific evidence whatsoever to substantiate the claim of the Medical Office that Pakter was not "fit for duty".
But David also wanted another opinion from the Medical Office, and asked the UFT for help in getting another evaluation. He finally received notice from the Medical Office that they had arranged an appointment with their "independent medical arbitrator," Dr. Charles E. Schwartz, M.D., to take place at Montefiore Hospital on Dec. 21, 2005 at 5:15 PM. Due to a transportation strike, the appointment was delayed until Jan. 11, 2006, with the physician named above. David was accompanied at the medical arbitration by Dr. Alberto Goldwaser, as well as a reporter and journalist (Betsy Combier). Near the end of the two-and-a-half-hour medical arbitration meeting, Dr. Schwartz agreed and concurred with Dr. Goldwaser that there was no scientific evidence to support the claim of Dr. Audrey Jacobson, Director of the Medical Office, that Pakter was not "fit for duty".
Six months later, David sent me this email:
"The Director of The New York City Dept of Education Medical Office, Dr. Audrey Jacobson, has admitted in a signed letter sent to David Pakter, that her office made a mistake in claiming Mr. Pakter was not "fit for duty" on August 16, 2005.
In a tersely worded letter dated June 5, 2006, DOE Medical Office director, Dr. Jacobson stated:
"The independent medical arbitrator has upheld your appeal, and has declared that the Medical, Leaves & Benefits Office was incorrect in deeming you unfit for duty as of August 16, 2005. The findings of the medical arbitrator are equally binding on you and the Department of Education. A copy of the arbitrator's decision has been sent to your physician."
This is believed to be the first instance in more than a quarter of a century that a New York City teacher, having been found "unfit" by the Department of Education Medical Office, was able to have such a charge overturned."
I filed a freedom of information request to obtain information on charges filed against David:
From: Betsy [email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 05, 2006 12:25 AM
To: Holtzman Susan
Cc: Arons Elizabeth Dr.; Best Michael (Legal Services); Cantor David; Caputo Virginia; MCardozo@law.nyc.gov; Longoria Carragher Arlene; TCrane@law.nyc.gov; firstname.lastname@example.org; Solarmedia@aol.com; Feinberg Marge; RFreeman@dos.state.ny.us; JFriedla@law.nyc.gov; AbGolden@law.nyc.gov; Greenfield Robin; Kicinski Christine J; Klein Joel I.; LKoerner@law.nyc.gov; Onek Matthew; NorScot@aol.com
Subject: Press FOIL Request from The E-Accountability Foundation
The E-Accountability Foundation
Betsy Combier, President and Campaign Sponsor
email@example.com September 5, 2006
Ms. Susan W. Holtzman
Central Records Access Officer
Office of Legal Services
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
Dear Ms. Holtzman:
Under the provisions of the New York Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law, I hereby request to purchase records or portions thereof pertaining to:
1) all Technical Assistance Conference memoranda ("TAC memos") that were authored by personnel assigned to the Office of Legal Services, and which mention David Pakter
2) all Technical Assistance Conference memoranda ("TAC memos") that were authored by personnel assigned to the Office of Appeals and Reviews, and which mention David Pakter.
If any record has been redacted or denied, please identify which categories of information have been redacted or denied, and cite the relevant statutory exemption.
I would prefer to receive the requested records by E-mail.
If you have any questions relating to the specific records or portion(s) being sought, please phone me so that we may discuss them.
You may not deny access to inter-agency or intra-agency records that are not "final agency policy or determinations" if they contain "statistical or factual tabulations or data" (or other material subject to production) within them, unless statutory exemptions different from FOIL §87(2)(g) are applicable. Both you and Mr. Best were previously in error for denying access to records on the sole ground that they were not "final agency policy or determinations."
RELEVANT JUDICIAL DECISIONS
Xerox Corporation v. Town of Webster (65 NY2d 131)
New York 1 News v. Office of the Borough President of Staten Island (647 NYS2d 270, affirmed 231 AD2d 524)
Gould v. New York City Police Department (89 NY2d 267)
RELEVANT ADVISORY OPINION
As you know, the Freedom of Information Law requires that an agency respond to a request within five business days of receipt of a request. Therefore, I would appreciate a response as soon as possible and look forward to hearing from you shortly. If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name and address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed.
David's first 3020a hearing began Nov. 30, 2005, and lasted many months. Then he waited for the decision another several months. Hearing Officer Martin Scheinman heard witnesses at David's 3020a that David was an excellent teacher, so he fined David $15,000 for "insubordination".
In September 2006 David was assigned to the High School of Fashion Industries. He wrote "The AP of Supervision, Giovanni Raschilla, admitted to a reporter that even before I was reassigned to that school, following my first 3020-a trial, the school Principal, Hilda Nieto, had received specific marching orders from the NYC DOE to target me as soon as I arrived at the school and 'get something on Pakter'. An outrageous state of affairs in which I had literally been ordered into a hostile work place environment where I was already targeted as "guilty" before I even walked in the schoolhouse door. And I fully suspected this would be the case but had I not reported to the new assignment the DOE would have charged me with being AWOL. Thus it was a catch-22, no win situation for me."
He was there only a few weeks when removed once again to the rubber room, this time at West 125th Street.
Here is the re-assignment letter:
November 22, 2006
Dear Mr. Pakter:
Please be advised that an allegation has been made against you and pending the outcome of this investigation you are being reassigned to 388 125th Street, 6th floor. Effective Monday,November 27, 2006, you are to report to 388 125th Street,
6th floor and continue to report to the location until further notice.
Human Resources Director (Manhattan)
C: Michael LaForgia
Local Instructional Superintendent
David's explanation: "For the record it should be noted that the two specific issues that arose with the principal in the short time I had been assigned to HS Fashion Industries are as follows:
1) The school attempted to place a letter in my file that I had purchased two plants for the lobby of the school without Principal Nieto's written permission. This is obvious harassment as I have been decorating school lobbies for over 30 years and never needed permission.
2) As an incentive to improve student achievement I offered to allow students with a 90 % average or higher on their report card to select a fashion accessory watch from my corporate website www.DAVIDPAKTERWATCHES.COM
This particular website showcases watches from my sold out 2004-2005 fashion collection which are no longer available for sale so there is no conflict of interest issues. The students were all well aware that the only way to obtain a watch from my last collection was to earn it by attaining a 90 or higher average on the official school report card.
For the first time in my long career as a teacher, the principal claimed I needed approval from the DOE/ Regional Office to distribute incentive awards. I thereupon emailed a formal request to Mariano Guzman, the Deputy Superintendent for Region Nine, fully describing in detail the full particulars of my company's offer to underwrite an incentive campaign.
It should be noted that the HS of Fashion Industries has for many years maintained their own student incentive program consisting of rewarding students with financial "vouchers" to acquire free art supplies from the official school store.
In addition, on page 6 of the most recent Parents Association Newsletter, the entire page is plastered with the names of stores, companies and neighborhood movie theatres that support the HS of Fashion Industries.
Thus once again the entire issue of my awarding students fashion accessories for high achievement is really a non-issue. But the attempted letter in my file re the above (which the UFT Rep challenged) is simply one more example of the never ending vendetta on the part of the DOE to try to harass me out of the system. Especially since I won the Medical Arbitration Decision last June which forced the Director of the DOE Medical Office, Dr. Audrey Jacobson to formally recant in writing a knowingly false claim she made one year ago, much to her embarrassment, and at great cost to the City."
Specification 6 of David's new charges as he awaits his second 3020a hearing was that he made the New York City Board of Education 'look bad' . Spec #6 says: "caused widespread negative publicity and notoriety to the HS of Fashion Industries and the New York City Department of Education in general when his "unprofessional behavior" was referenced in a UFT newspaper".
"Thus I was not only set up and victimized but later charged in the 3020-a Specifications for my new, second, 3020-a Trial with the crime of letting the UFT publish the facts of my first 3020-a Railroading," David said. The NYC BOE re-considered, and withdrew this charge. David awaits his second 3020a hearing.
In September 2008 Pakter sued the NYC Board of Education in Federal Court:
U.S. District Court
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Foley Square), CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 1:08-cv-07673-DAB
David Pakter's Complaint
New York City's Notice to Dismiss
New York City's Memorandum of Law in Support of the Motion to Dismiss
Related story: Diana Lam's ouster:
On the Lam
New York Magazine
The mayor wanted basic change in the schools, and Diana Lam provided it—until unsavory tactics proved her undoing. Where does the chancellor turn now?
By Robert Kolker, Published Mar 15, 2004
Joel Klein is not the man he was two years ago when Mike Bloomberg asked him to head the nation’s largest public-school system, and much of his evolution—especially his belief that children learn as much reading alone as they do from being taught by teachers—took place at the knee of Diana Lam. In a cabinet of private-sector and think-tank émigrés, Lam, Klein’s deputy for instruction, was the only career educator; while most of his team focused on rejiggering the bureaucracy, Lam introduced the one piece of reform that actually had to do with the way kids are taught. But now that she has left in disgrace—forced out for nepotism, igniting the mayor’s first major personnel scandal—Klein finds himself in an awkward position: He feels the need to defend her as an educator while condemning her sin. And yet, even as the scandal grows, Klein’s condemnation seems halfhearted.
“Some people for ideological reasons disagreed with her about the curriculum,” Klein says. “That became an issue. And in this business, people get polarized. That’s unfortunate. But I think that she was a sound educator, and I have confidence in her educational judgments.”
Klein defended Lam to Bloomberg, too, before the mayor finally persuaded him to get her resignation, which suggests either a certain political myopia or a devotedness to the deputy who became his mentor. In the beginning, Klein had hired her to be a change agent, offering her the job after just a few meetings not because of her educational philosophy but because they clicked. “I liked her style,” he told me last year. Did he know anything about the educational programs she used? “No,” he admitted. But he did know this: Four times, in four different cities, Lam would start up a campaign of parental engagement, introduce a new curriculum, and see test scores bump up a tick or two. And for an education novice whose boss needed the scores to go up before the next election, that seemed like a good deal.
In Lam, Klein had found a fellow anti-incrementalist; in a pedagogical culture of marathoners, she was a sprinter. Revamp the middle schools? No problem. Cut out social promotion in the third grade? Done. Devise a special-ed plan and break up the big high schools? You got it. She was dynamic and uncompromising at a time when managing the educational bureaucracy was at the forefront of the mayor’s thinking about education.
She was also impolitic, a lousy listener. She didn’t mind whom she provoked. The $800,000 buyout in San Antonio. The wacky three-day campaign for mayor in Boston. The bad blood in Dubuque. And the last few months in Providence, where she rigged a bidding war with Portland, Oregon, to boost her salary and then abruptly accepted the job in New York, giving notice by e-mail. In the end, Lam didn’t need any help imploding.
Last summer, newspapers were tipped off that her husband, Peter Plattes, was working in a department that reports directly to her. Lam claimed that Plattes never formally accepted the job, but another tipster revealed this to be a lie. Guessing who whispered to investigators about Lam’s indiscretions has become a parlor game at Tweed Courthouse. “She was done in by people inside the system who work for her,” says one source who sat on a board with Lam. “Not by reporters or teachers.”
In the final act last week, when a report by the schools investigator forced Bloomberg’s hand, Lam made sure she wouldn’t flame out alone: She said she’d been given the blessing of general counsel Chad Vignola, who resigned a few days later. For a mayor who has staked his reelection on cleaning up the schools, this is no time for an accountability crisis. But Klein, claiming all is well, continues to cast himself as a reformer—and Lam as a target of those who opposed reform.
“She didn’t mind whom she provoked. In the end, Lam didn’t need any help imploding.”
Lam’s enemies were ideological and political as well as personal. Phonics fans like Diane Ravitch were appalled by her philosophy of allowing long blocks of unstructured time for children to simply read and write on their own. Liberals hated the pressure the program put on teachers. The joke around Tweed was that for the first time, teachers-union chief Randi Weingarten and Manhattan Institute pundit Sol Stern agreed on something—that Diana Lam was a disaster.
“Wherever she went, the teachers hated her,” says Stern. “Her forte is a tremendous emphasis on top-down staff development. You haul all of the teachers and principals out of the classrooms constantly and pound into them what it is you want done.” Those headlines about how teachers are shocked that they have to keep lessons to less than eleven minutes—Lam took the blame for that. Which is why Weingarten felt comfortable sending Lam off last week with the hope that “we can start making educational decisions based on what works for children rather than on one administrator’s personal ideology.”
In recasting the system in Lam’s image, Klein embraced a curriculum already u