We fill the communication gap between representative/lawyer and client by working on a set-fee basis, not an hourly rate, and by giving unlimited time to research and to discuss the facts and issues. Our goal is to assure each client that he or she has someone in their corner at all times and that the arguments presented are accurate and comprehensive. We keep all parties on the same page.

That's what Due Process Advocacy is all about: preserving the right to be heard and to have relevant facts considered.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Getting Tenure

ADVOCATZ believes in tenure.

For the past 15 years we have been researching case law and attending as well as assisting at teacher tenure hearings (3020-a Arbitration), and we offer below some guidelines from the UFT on how to get tenure.

We recommend that each and every observation, email, meeting, letter, or notes given to you or sent to you be rebutted/responded to. We suggest that you carefully and honestly state facts, and drop incendiary items such as large type, insults, the use of derogatory terms, etc.

We can help you with that, just contact us at betsy@advocatz.com.

Grieve any harassment (Article 23), grieve U-ratings and Appeal any false APPR ratings. Don't be fearful of asserting your rights, these are stepping stones which must be done in order to defend your position later on.

When you get into a hearing, dont sit back and let your representative do whatever they want, partner with your representative, and make sure that they do what you want. You have the facts of the matter, you count. Don't be silent, but say what you want to say professionally.

What does that mean? Contact us.
betsy@advocatz.com
betsy.combier@gmail.com

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials 

All you need to know about getting tenure
Gaining tenure is an important milestone for new teachers. Having tenure means you can’t be terminated without due process and you’re entitled to a hearing if the Department of Education takes disciplinary action that could lead to termination.
Teachers hired before July 1, 2015, generally serve a three-year probationary period. Teachers hired after July 1, 2015, are generally eligible for tenure at the end of their fourth year.
There are two ways to reduce your probationary period. If you worked as a regular substitute in the same license and at the same school level, you can reduce the normal probationary period by up to two years. This is called Jarema Credit, and you should apply if you think you are eligible. The application form is online. Another way to reduce your probationary period is called “traveling tenure.” If you received tenure in one license area and elect to take an appointment in a new license area or if you were tenured in another school district in New York State, you should apply to have your probationary period reduced by one year.
If you think you are eligible for either of these options, or have any questions, contact your UFT borough office.
There are many steps you can take to prepare for your tenure decision. First and foremost, you need to know your tenure date. To find it, check with your payroll secretary. You’ll want to be proactive in meeting with your principal in advance of your tenure decision to review your work.
In New York City, tenure is granted in your license appointment area, which is why it is of utmost importance that your license code match the subject and level in which you are teaching.
Tenure isn’t automatically granted at the end of your probationary period. To be granted tenure, you must:
  • Be on track to complete all your state certification and city licensing requirements, file an application and receive professional certification;
  • have a record of acceptable service during your probationary period; and
  • be recommended for tenure by your principal.
Your tenure becomes permanent only after you complete all your certification requirements.
In preparing for tenure, you’ll want to keep records and documents that reflect on your performance, such as observation reports; notes or emails to and from your colleagues, mentor, supervisors and parents; and evidence of your professional contributions to your school. Add a brief explanation or context for each piece of evidence you include and be sure to show how you differentiate to accommodate children with diverse abilities.
If applicable, you can document the work you’ve done for your school community, such as clubs or student groups you advise or activities in which you’ve participated.
There are many ways you can organize this information. Some teachers choose to build tenure portfolios using binders organized into subsections where they store lesson plans, student work and assessments, observation reports, certificates from professional learning activities and other records.
Other teachers recommend digital record-keeping, using online resources to organize files. Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud are all services you can use to store your work.
If you are up for tenure and your principal asks you to agree to extend your probationary period, you should contact your chapter leader or a UFT representative to help ensure that your rights are protected.
The UFT offers tenure workshops in its borough offices. Check the UFT website’s events calendar for details.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR) Under Education Law 3012-d and Subpart 30-3

The following resources provide relevant information and support to districts and BOCES about Annual Professional Performance Reviews under Education Law §3012-d and Subpart 30-3 of the Rules of the Board of Regents for the school years 2015-16 and beyond. 
APPR Statute, Regulations, and Guidance
The purpose of this guidance is to answer questions that educators, administrators, and community stakeholders may have about Education Law §3012-d and Subpart 30-3 of the Commissioner’s regulations.
The Student Learning Objectives (SLO) Guidance Document explains how New York State will assess the student learning growth of students in classrooms where there is no State assessment that can be used for a State-provided growth measure (sometimes called “non-tested subjects”). This resource will be helpful to district leaders as they implement the SLO process, a required component of the teacher evaluation system. 
Click the link above for the new Education Law §3012-d, which was added by Chapter 56 of the Laws of 2015. To access the statute, select “Laws” then “Laws of New York” from the top menu bar, enter “3012-d” in the search box and click on the second link, “Education Law § 3012-d.” 
At the June 2015 meeting of the Board of Regents, proposed amendments were adopted to amend Subpart 30-2 and add a new Subpart 30-3 to the Rules of the Board of Regents, which relates to annual professional performance reviews of classroom teachers and building principals, in order to implement Education Law §3012-d, as enacted by Chapter 56 of the Laws of 2015, Subparts D and E of Part EE.
These slides were presented to the Board of Regents along with this item as recommendations by the Department for the proposed regulation amendments. Please note, the red text throughout the slide deck represents changes made to the recommendations between the May 2015 and June 2015 Board of Regents meetings. The green text represents changes that were made to the recommendations during the June 2015 Board of Regents meeting.
The “Blue Memo” provides a summary of the regulations adopted by the Board of Regents to implement Education Law 3012-d.


Resources for Appealing State-Provided Growth Scores
Application to Challenge a State-Provided Growth Score (2014-15 School Year and Thereafter) 
At its September 2015 meeting, the Board of Regents amended Subparts 30-2 and 30-3 of the Rules of the Board of Regents to prescribe an appeals process for a teacher or principal who wishes to challenge their State-provided growth score, in certain limited circumstances for the 2014-15 school year and thereafter while the Department is reviewing the growth model to determine if any changes are needed. 
Teachers and principals who meet the criteria identified in the application and choose to challenge their State-provided shall submit an appeal to the Department, using the above linked application, within 20 days of receipt of their overall APPR rating.
This Frequently Asked Questions document has been created to answer common questions about who is eligible to challenge their State-provided growth score under the revised regulations, how to apply, what evidence should be submitted, etc.


Resources for the Design and Development of APPR Plans
The New York State Education Department is now accepting applications for qualifications for supplemental assessments and corresponding growth models and/or assessments for use with SLOs to be used by districts and BOCES in teacher and principal evaluations as part of their implementation of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) system.
To implement the provisions of Education Law §3012-d relating to annual professional performance reviews of classroom teachers and building principals, the New York State Education Department, is soliciting applications for Teacher and Principal Practice Rubrics that will be used as part of teacher and principal evaluations. And, in limited circumstances, LEAs may apply for a variance to use a teacher and/or principal practice rubric other than those on the Approved List.
To implement the provisions of Education Law §3012-d relating to annual professional performance reviews of classroom teachers and building principals, the New York State Education Department (“NYSED” or “Department”), strongly encourages local educational agencies (LEAs) to select teacher and principal practice rubrics from the Department’s List of Approved Teacher and Principal Practice Rubrics (“Approved List”). In limited circumstances, however, LEAs may apply for a variance to use a teacher and/or principal practice rubric other than those on the Approved List.
The New York State Education Department is now accepting applications for qualifications for supplemental assessments and corresponding growth models and/or assessments for use with SLOs to be used by districts and BOCES in teacher and principal evaluations as part of their implementation of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) system. 
Assessments will be added to the Approved List of Assessments to be used with SLOs and the Approved List of Supplemental Assessments to be used with Growth Models as they are approved.
The teacher and principal evaluation road maps are intended to help districts and BOCES navigate the decisions that need to be made in order to implement the new APPR system. The road maps are a summary of the regulations adopted by the Board of Regents to implement Education Law §3012-d.
Two sample APPR plans that are in compliance with Education Law §3012-d have been developed to support districts and BOCES in the design and development of their own APPR plans.
Evaluators and educators are encouraged to use this rubric to measure the quality of the information provided by educators on the NYS SLO Template. Please view the webinar "SLO 102 for Teachers" to see how to use the rubric with a sample SLO. This draft rubric was developed by a national SLO Work Group convened by the Reform Support Network (RSN) that includes representatives from many of the Race to the Top States, including New York State. The goal of the effort was to produce a rubric that multiple states can use to evaluate the quality of SLOs. The group examined a wide range of rubrics from school districts and states across the country, looking for strengths and weaknesses, similarities and differences. The rubric that resulted from the efforts of the group uses one performance level -- meets expectations -- as the decision was made that an SLO should not be approved if it does not meet the expectations set forth in the rubric. This rubric has been updated to align with Education Law §3012-d.
The Student Learning Objective (SLO) template is the statewide form for teachers to use for writing their SLO(s).
School districts and BOCES are required to submit their completed APPR plans aligned with §3012-d into the SED Monitoring APPR portal. The Department reviews each APPR plan to determine if it rigorously complies with the Education Law and corresponding subpart of the Rules of the Board of Regents. APPR plans under Education Law §3012-d should be submitted through the SED Monitoring APPR portal. A template of the APPR form, as it appears in the SED Monitoring APPR portal, can be downloaded here.
The goal of these modules is to guide users through the twelve tasks in the updated SED Monitoring APPR portal and in their understanding of the APPR process under Education Law §3012-d, including:
  • The component pieces of the APPR plan for teachers and principals (requirements and options);
  • How to structure APPRs to support academic priorities and needs;
  • How to submit an APPR plan that meets requirements of law and regulations; and
  • How to use resources from NYSED to support the APPR process.
The Task by Task  SED Monitoring APPR Portal Guidance Document (APPR §3012-d) was created to be used as a guide for the field, specifically tailored and organized for completing an APPR plan under Education Law §3012-d in the SED Monitoring APPR portal.
An application to apply for a waiver is available on our Independent Evaluator Hardship Waiver page and on NYSED’s Application Business Portal at http://portal.nysed.gov. Please note: This application must be completed online through the NYSED’s Application Business Portal at http://portal.nysed.gov.
NYSED will continue to post school districts’ APPR plans as they become approved.


Waivers Pursuant to Education Law §3012-d
The applications for the Undue Burden and Rural/Single Building District Independent Evaluator Hardship waivers are available on NYSED’s Application Business Portal. Please note: This application must be completed online through the NYSED’s Application Business Portal and submitted by February 1st of the school year for which each waiver is sought.
An application to apply for the annual Student Assignment Hardship Waiver is available on NYSED’s Application Business Portal.  Please note: this waiver application must be completed and submitted online, beginning August 1, through NYSED’s Application Business Portal no later than October 15 of the school year for which the waiver is sought.


This slide deck outlines the reporting requirements under Education Law §3012-d, including the submission of transition scores and ratings.
This chart provides examples of Original and Transition Staff Evaluation data elements required under Education Law §3012-d aligned by component of the Annual Professional Performance Review plan.
These examples illustrate the submission of 2016-17 Staff Evaluation data for Original and Transition scores and ratings under Education Law §3012-d.
This memorandum provides an update on the following: 1. 2016-17 APPR Implementation Certification Form; 2. APPR data collection and reporting timelines and requirements; 3. APPR review and approval processes for 2017-18 school year material changes. 
This memorandum provides continuing information regarding several APPR data collection and reporting deadlines. A Frequently Asked Questions document has been created surrounding common questions about the data submission and the Statement of Confirmation of 2016-17 Staff Evaluation Rating Verification Report and has been included for your reference. The submission deadline for staff evaluation data is October 27, 2017*, and the deadline to submit the “Statement of Confirmation of 2016-17 Staff Evaluation Rating Verification Report” is November 17, 2017.
* Due to feedback we have received from districts, BOCES, and Regional Information Centers regarding issues with the software many districts and BOCES use to generate and submit their staff evaluation data, Level 2 will accept data for an additional week. The staff evaluation data submission deadline is October 27, however, the container will be open through November 3 to accept data from LEAs that are not able to complete their submission by October 27. Additionally, the 2016-17 Statement of Confirmation of Staff Evaluation Verification form will be due on November 17, 2017 instead of November 3.
This webinar is designed to provide helpful feedback to the field based on common issues we are seeing as districts/BOCES submit their APPR data for the October 27, 2017 deadline. Please note: Local level 1 data centers will require earlier due dates to allow sufficient time for processing. Several sample scenarios with illustrative data have been utilized to show appropriate steps in data submission.


Friday, December 8, 2017

American Bar Association: Judges Should Not Use the Internet For Research on Cases



| December 08, 2017 | Originally published on National Law Journal

The internet is a powerful research tool, but in the hands of a judge, its use poses serious ethical conundrums that are best avoided, warns a new American Bar Association opinion.
The ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which develops and interprets ethics standards for lawyers and the judiciary, issued the opinion Friday. While internet information may be educational or useful, the ABA said, there are risks because internet information can be “biased, unreliable, or false.” When making decisions, judges should not rely on facts found via internet research that are not subject to the adversarial process, the guidance adds.
“Stated simply, a judge should not gather adjudicative facts from any source on the Internet unless the information is subject to proper judicial notice,” the guidance advises.
The guidance says judges should not conduct internet research to fill factual gaps in a case record, or to corroborate or discredit facts in the record. If extra information is needed, that information should be subject to judicial notice, or in other words, “not subject to reasonable dispute.” Judges should also ask parties to provide more information when appropriate, not go find it on their own.
Judges can, however, conduct research into general topics to help them understand a subject unrelated to a pending case, under the ABA’s rules. The guidance gives the example of a judge recently assigned to a jurisdiction with a high volume of environmental cases. That judge would not face ethical issues by reading articles and other materials about environmental law, according to the guidance.
The opinion lists additional hypothetical situations, and explains whether a judge’s behavior may be acceptable. That includes a judge using social media to learn about lawyers, jurors or parties in a case. While judges can use social media, the guidance says, judges should not gather information about jurors or parties.
But gathering information about a lawyer is a “closer question,” the ABA said. If a judge wants to become “familiar with counsel” who appear in his or her court, that’s acceptable. But judges cannot use independent research on lawyers in weighing or considering adjudicative facts.
The extent to which judges should engage in online research is a subject of ongoing debate, especially as social media sites that provide personal information about users have become more pervasive. In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit handled a case in which a prisoner who suffered from gastroesophageal reflux brought an Eighth Amendment challenge, claiming prison officials restricted his access to over-the-counter medicines.
Judge Richard Posner, now retired, conducted extensive research on medical websites, including WebMD and others. In the opinion, Posner defended his research, writing that the court was not “deeming the Internet evidence cited in this opinion conclusive or even certifying it as being probably correct, though it may well be correct since it is drawn from reputable medical websites.” He said the information was only used “to underscore the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact” that arose in district court proceedings.
The dissenting judge, David Hamilton, wrote that Posner’s research was an “unprecedented departure from the proper role of an appellate court.”
It appears the ABA agrees, as its guidance explicitly states that judges should not conduct outside research to gather facts that affect the outcome of a case.
The ABA goes even further, noting that judges should simply ask parties to provide information if possible, rather than finding it themselves.
“Judges should not use the Internet for independent fact-gathering related to a pending or impending matter where the parties can easily be asked to research or provide the information,” the guidance says. “The same is true of the activities or characteristics of the litigants or other participants in the matter.”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Discrimination and Filing a Complaint With the EEOC

If you believe you have a claim for disability discrimination, you should file a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as soon as possible. There are time limitations which are all too often missed.

Without missing your deadline for filing, I suggest that you take the time to read up on the Laws which protect your rights in the workplace, even if you hire an Attorney. Be an informed client.

Read the Sections on Prohibited Practices and Policies, and the Discrimination By Type which the EEOC prohibits. Gather all of your notes, emails, tapes, videos, and documents on the actions and people who you think have discriminated against you, and write a detailed timeline summarizing all the misconduct, with dates, times, place, and any other facts.

Betsy Combier
Editor, Advocatz.com
President, Advocatz
betsy@advocatz.com

Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer or other entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because she has a disability. Learn more about the Act at ADA at 25.
Disability discrimination also occurs when a covered employer or other entity treats an applicant or employee less favorably because she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is controlled or in remission) or because she is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if she does not have such an impairment).
The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer ("undue hardship").
The law also protects people from discrimination based on their relationship with a person with a disability (even if they do not themselves have a disability). For example, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because her husband has a disability.
Note: Federal employees and applicants are covered by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, instead of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The protections are mostly the same.

Filing With the EEOC

If you believe that you have been discriminated against at work because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information, you can file a Charge of Discrimination. A charge of discrimination is a signed statement asserting that an employer, union or labor organization engaged in employment discrimination. It requests EEOC to take remedial action.
All of the laws enforced by EEOC, except for the Equal Pay Act, require you to file a Charge of Discrimination with us before you can file a job discrimination lawsuit against your employer. In addition, an individual, organization, or agency may file a charge on behalf of another person in order to protect the aggrieved person's identity. There are time limits for filing a charge. The laws enforced by the EEOC require the agency to notify the employer that a charge has been filed against it.
A Charge of Discrimination can be completed through our EEOC Public Portal after you submit an online inquiry and we interview you. Filing a formal charge of employment discrimination is a serious matter. In the EEOC’s experience, having the opportunity to discuss your concerns with an EEOC staff member in an interview is the best way to assess how to address your concerns about employment discrimination and determine whether filing a charge of discrimination is the appropriate path for you. In any event, the final decision to file a charge is your own.
If you have 60 days or fewer in which to file a timely charge, the EEOC Public Portal will provide special directions for quickly providing necessary information to the EEOC and how to file your charge quickly. Or, go to https://www.eeoc.gov/field/index.cfm and enter your zip code for the contact information of the EEOC office closest to you.
The laws enforced by the EEOC require the agency to accept charges alleging employment discrimination. If the laws do not apply to your claims, if the charge was not filed within the law’s time limits, or if the EEOC decides to limit its investigation, the EEOC will dismiss the charge without any further investigation and notify you of your legal rights.

With A State or Local Agency

Many states and local jurisdictions have their own anti-discrimination laws, and agencies responsible for enforcing those laws (Fair Employment Practices Agencies, or FEPAs). If you file a charge with a FEPA, it will automatically be "dual-filed" with EEOC if federal laws apply. You do not need to file with both agencies.
Note: Federal employees and job applicants have similar protections, but a different complaint process.

Disability Discrimination & Work Situations

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Disability Discrimination & Harassment

It is illegal to harass an applicant or employee because he has a disability, had a disability in the past, or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).
Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person's disability. Although the law doesn't prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren't very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Disability Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation

The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.
Reasonable accommodation might include, for example, making the workplace accessible for wheelchair users or providing a reader or interpreter for someone who is blind or hearing impaired.
While the federal anti-discrimination laws don't require an employer to accommodate an employee who must care for a disabled family member, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may require an employer to take such steps. The Department of Labor enforces the FMLA. For more information, call: 1-866-487-9243.

Disability Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship

An employer doesn't have to provide an accommodation if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer.
Undue hardship means that the accommodation would be too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of the employer's size, financial resources, and the needs of the business. An employer may not refuse to provide an accommodation just because it involves some cost. An employer does not have to provide the exact accommodation the employee or job applicant wants. If more than one accommodation works, the employer may choose which one to provide.

Definition Of Disability

Not everyone with a medical condition is protected by the law. In order to be protected, a person must be qualified for the job and have a disability as defined by the law.
A person can show that he or she has a disability in one of three ways:
  • A person may be disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or learning).
  • A person may be disabled if he or she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is in remission).
  • A person may be disabled if he is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).

Disability & Medical Exams During Employment Application & Interview Stage

The law places strict limits on employers when it comes to asking job applicants to answer medical questions, take a medical exam, or identify a disability.
For example, an employer may not ask a job applicant to answer medical questions or take a medical exam before extending a job offer. An employer also may not ask job applicants if they have a disability (or about the nature of an obvious disability). An employer may ask job applicants whether they can perform the job and how they would perform the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.

Disability & Medical Exams After A Job Offer For Employment

After a job is offered to an applicant, the law allows an employer to condition the job offer on the applicant answering certain medical questions or successfully passing a medical exam, but only if all new employees in the same type of job have to answer the questions or take the exam.

Disability & Medical Exams For Persons Who Have Started Working As Employees

Once a person is hired and has started work, an employer generally can only ask medical questions or require a medical exam if the employer needs medical documentation to support an employee's request for an accommodation or if the employer believes that an employee is not able to perform a job successfully or safely because of a medical condition.
The law also requires that employers keep all medical records and information confidential and in separate medical files.

Available Resources

In addition to a variety of formal guidance documents, EEOC has developed a wide range of fact sheets, question & answer documents, and other publications to help employees and employers understand the complex issues surrounding disability discrimination.

The ADA Amendments Act

Veterans with Disabilities

The Questions and Answers Series

Mediation and the ADA

HIV/AIDS and the ADA

The following documents were developed by the U.S. Department of Justice.