1. CHARGING PARTY:
David K. Roemer
345 Webster Ave., Apt. 4-O
Brooklyn, New York 11230
2. EMPLOYEE ORGAINZATION AGAINST WHICH CHARGE IS BROUGHT:
United Federation of Teachers
260 Park Ave. South
New York, New York 10010
3. No injunctive relief is being applied for.
4. VIOLATIONS ALLEGED
Section 209-a.2(c)(New York City Board of Education, 110 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, New York 11201, 718-935-2000)
5. ALLEGED VIOLATIONS
I was a satisfactory teacher for 10 years when I transferred to Edward R. Murrow High School in September 1994. On November 3, 1994, Howard Solomon of the UFT submitted a request for conciliation to the Board of Education that stated:
The issue to be conciliated is the approach that should be used in the teaching of physics. The Grievant, David Roemer, has taught Physics since 1984 in Midwood H.S. He transferred to Edward R. Murrow H.S. in September 1994. He has always taught Physics using a "constructionist" methodology from workshops and seminars given by Supt. Coppin's office. He wants to continue using this approach.
Mr. Bruckner, Principal of Murrow H.S. and Mr. Cohen, A.P. Science, have directed him to use a "developmental" approach to teaching Physics. His observations have been critical because of his lack of a developmental lesson plan.
Both parties have agreed to enter the Conciliation process.
On December 2, 1994 Joseph Lo Shiavo, Director of Related Staff Services of the Office of the Chancellor, wrote to the Superintendent of Brooklyn High Schools:
An Article 24 Conciliation Case has been filed by the United Federation Teachers on behalf of teachers at Edward R. Murrow High School.
As part of the conciliation process you are afforded the opportunity to informally resolve the issue(s) outlined on the attached UFT form within ten days. The agreed upon solution should be described in detail and signed by both parties. This written document should define the area(s) of difference, identify what steps will be or have been taken to resolve the differences and include an enforcement paragraph as outlined in Article 24 (copy attached).
A Conciliator will be assigned if you are unable to get the parties to agree, of if you feel it is advisable to assign a conciliator to this case immediately.
I will be in contact with you or a representative of your staff assigned to handle this case on a periodic basis. As the Board Conciliator, I am available to provide assistance and guidance to facilitate a successful completion of this process. Please feel free to contact me at any time.
I would like to point out that there is nothing about the agreement to conciliate under Article 24 of the collective bargaining agreement that is of a disciplinary nature. This provision of the contract was included in the latest version of the teachers contract because, to quote from the contact:
The Board and the Union agree that professional involvement of teachers in educational issues should be encouraged. However, it is recognized that there may be differences in professional judgement.
My supervisors did not conciliate but continued to observe my lessons and give me unsatisfactory ratings. On June 5, 1995 I met John Soldini, Vice President of High Schools, Frank Volpicella, District Representative for the UFT, and Howard Solomon of the UFT. I complained that my supervisors were not conciliating and that the matter should be settled before the beginning of the new academic year in September 1995.
Alleged Violation # 1:
Mr. Soldini failed to advise the Principal and Superintendent of Brooklyn High Schools that they were violating my contractual rights by giving me unsatisfactory ratings when we were supposed to be conciliating under Article 24 of the contract.
On May 29 I filed a grievance letter with the Principal of the school complaining about the way I was being treated and the refusal of my supervisors to follow the procedures of the contract. I made it very clear that I would not change my teaching except as part of the conciliation process. My supervisors responded by giving me a teaching program for September 1995. This was done in order to trump up a fraudulent case against me for incompetence.
The grievance was denied by the Principal at step 1 and the Superintendent at step 2. I received the following letter dated February 16, 1996 from George Fesko, Assistant to the President of the UFT:
On January 16, 1996 you met with the Grievance Committee of the AdCom in order to appeal the decision by the Union not to pursue your grievance (Case #13511) to Step Three (3) of the grievance procedure.
After a very careful review of the facts that you presented at your AdCom appeal and the results of our investigation which included a review of your case documents and discussions with staff at the Brooklyn UFT Office and Grievance Department of the Union, the Grievance Committee of the AdCom has decided to remand this grievance (Case #13511) back to Professional Conciliation since this would be the best forum to obtain a resolution. You were advised of this decision at your AdCom appeal.
Alleged violation #2
The administrative committee of the UFT, which includes Tom Pappas, Secretary of the UFT and Chief of Staff, John Soldini, and Howard Block, Head of Grievance Department of the UFT, failed to carry out the promise given to me on January 16, 1996 to enforce the conciliation agreement.
I was removed from the classroom on March 1996 and charges were filed against me in November 1996. On November 29, 1996 I wrote to James R. Sandner, General Counsel of New York State United Teachers explaining my view that the charges against me were fraudulent. I also expressed this point of view to the attorney assigned to me, Mitchell H. Rubinstein, in writing and orally. New York State United Teachers is an umbrella organization for teacher unions.
Mitchell Rubinstein wrote to me on December 9, 1996:
I understand your position is that you believe you were following the December 2, 1994 Lo Shiavo letter and I am willing to take the position that your are not guilty. However, for reasons set forth below, I believe that if we take that position you will ultimately be found guilty of insubordination for not following your supervisors' orders.
On December 6, 1996 he wrote to the Board's counsel:
We would appreciate if you would explore the possibility of settlement with your client. What appears to have happened is that Mr. Roemer had a professional disagreement with some of his superiors regarding teaching methodology. He was hoping that this disagreement could be resolved through the conciliation process which he thought was still pending. Apparently, there is no disagreement that learning was taking place. Additionally, the charges concern Regent Physics, not the other classes Mr. Roemer also taught.
At this time, Mr. Roemer appears open to the following:
1. He will agree to follow his supervisors directives and suggestions in the future even if he disagrees.
2. He will agree that the charges constitute notice of what is expected of him in the future.
3. He will agree not to teach Regent Physics if that is desired so long as he receives a full teaching load.
4. He will agree to a transfer if that is desired.
5. The Board will have to agree to withdraw the charges and attempt to conciliate the matter under Article 24 of the CBA.
Alleged Violation # 3
Mr. Rubinstein should have withdrawn from the case because it was clear that I did not have any confidence in him. He believed that I was guilty of insubordination and that the charges were lawful. I believed that I was not guilty of insubordination or any wrongdoing and that the charges were fraudulent.
I complained that the above letter spoke vaguely about the conciliation process and that the Board's lawyers didn't know that the Board agreed to the conciliation process in my particular case. My attorney wrote another letter on February 11, 1997 that stated:
I am enclosing a letter to Superintendent Coppin dated December 2, 1994 from Joseph Lo Schiavo and a copy of a Request for Conciliation. I also understand that the UFT will be making another request to conciliate.
If you client is willing to proceed with conciliation or if your client agrees that the conciliation process is still open it seems pointless to proceed with the section 3020-a. Please call in order to discuss this.
I inquired about the selection of the Hearing Officer. Mr. Rubinstein wrote to me on January 23, 1997 that:
Howard Edelman, Esq. has already been selected as the Hearing Officer. He is one of the most experienced Hearing Officers and he was my first choice.
Alleged Violation #4
Mr. Rubinstein selected without my approval and authorization the hearing officer.
On Februray 5, 1997 I complained in writing to Frank Volpicella, District Representative of the UFT, about the representation I was getting from Mr. Rubinstein. On February 12, 1997 I explained in detail my complaints against Mr. Rubinstein to James R. Sandner.
I retained private counsel at my own expense. The lawyer withdrew from the case and I wrote to Sandra Feldman, President of the UFT, on February 28, 1997 asking for assistance.
Alleged Violation # 5
The United Federation of Teachers failed to provide me with competent counsel.
I retained another lawyer at my own expense. Lawyers for the Board of Education drafted a stipulation of settlement that required me to transfer to another school and to be suspended without pay for two months. My lawyer and I signed the document. To my attorney's chagrin, the Board of Education did not accept the settlement and the hearing went forward. I was found innocent of the charge of incompetence but guilty of insubordination. The minority panelist said my penalty should consist of being transferred to another school. The majority of the panel said I should be terminated.
On November 21, 1998 I wrote to Mr. Rubinstein to see if the New York State United Teachers would help me file an application to the Supreme Court to vacate the findings and recommendations of the panel.
Alleged Violation # 6
The UFT failed to attempt to undo the damage done by its failure to properly represent me.
I sent letters to Randi Weingarten, President of the UFT, complaining of the manner in which the UFT represented me in connection with the Article 24 conciliation, the grievance filed with the Board of Education, and the arbitration hearing on June 27, 1998, July 22, 1998, and December 2, 1999. On January 9, 2000 Tom Papas wrote to me saying that the UFT would not pay for my legal expenses.
Alleged Violation # 7
The UFT failed to compensate me for the damage their failure to properly represent me caused.