Saturday, December 4, 2010


Continued from Chapter 3:  THREATS AND COVERUP

I'll give you a quick review of Jude's Story which I started back in October.  Jude reported to her principal that some of the questions on her students' 4th grade math test might have been incorrectly graded.  The Principal asked the Assistant Principal to carry out an investigation, and it was found that all of the 4th grade math tests had been graded incorrectly and that many students had received lower grades than they should have.  Not only that, but the sixth grade math tests had the same problem.  In retaliation, one of the other 4th grade teachers threatened to turn the parents against Jude.  Jude went to her UFT rep, who refused to help her.

As I mentioned in Chapter 1 ,  Jude had achieved the American Dream in spite of being raised in the projects of the South Bronx.

Graduated from Bronx High School of Science
Bachelors degree from Hunter College
Masters degree from Lehman College
Highly Respected Teacher in the New York City Board of Eduction--tenured, vested
Homeowner on Long Island
Married with three children
Active and respected in her church and community

If you start to describe your own life, you will soon find that you are really describing the groups to which you belong.  The structure of your life rests on the foundations that are your groups.
"Oh no it doesn't," you might say.  "It rests on my strengths, my abilities, and my hard work."

I agree.  But the choices you made on how to apply your strengths, abilities, and hard work gave you admission to certain groups.  Those groups support your lifestyle.

You had no choice on the family group you were born into.  For the first eighteen years or so of your life your parents determined your sibling group, your extended family group, your neighborhood group, your peer group, your school group, your social class group, your religious group, etc.

Parents have a lot of power in our lives.  They are the original foundations.

But then you came of age, moved out, and started to build your own lifestyle.  Your choices, your foundations:   To graduate from high school or not.  To get married or not.  To  go to college or not.  To get this degree or that degree.  To join this club or that club.  To live here or live there.  To buy or to rent.  To save or to spend.  To have one child, many children, or none. 

These are the foundations that you establish.

Depending on the number of foundations you have, and the quality of those foundations, you can survive many serious assaults by nature or by man.  It's very, very hard to survive bad times on your own.  If you find yourself dependent on the charity of strangers, you  have seen the pillars of your life crumple around you.

"Isn't this Jude's Story?"  You might ask.  "Why are you talking about me"?  Instead of rambling on about 'you this you that', talk about her."

If you belong to one of Jude's groups.  I'm talking about you when I talk about her.  It's a cautionary tale.  But unlike most cautionary tales, it's not about an individual that messed up.  It's about groups that failed under pressure.

So, I'm talking about you if:

You're black.
You're a woman.
You're a wife.
You're a mother.
You're a religious person.
You're a teacher.
You're a homeowner.

I have already warned you that this story is about a woman who has been assaulted over and over.  As I tell her story, I will remind you again and again that she could be you and you could be her. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chapter 3: Jude's Story -- THREATS AND COVERUP

Chapter 2:  CRIME

In order to tell you about the cover-up and threats made against Jude, I am going to go back to the first moment that Jude realized that something was wrong with the tests.

Each teacher got a list of the children in their class, and the score of each child.  The first anomaly that leapt off the page was the “2” (below average) next to Little Johnny’s name.  Jude was sure that he had gotten a perfect score, which would have given him a “4”. During the test, she had walked around the classroom and had noticed how well he had been doing.

The next thing she did was to go talk to one of the teachers who had scored the 4th grade test with her.

How did the other teacher respond?  Did he say something like:  “You’re sure he was doing that well, and he only got a “2”?  Well, you’re his teacher, and you would know.  I can understand your concern.  Let’s go ask for his test and check it together.”

Uh. No.  This is what the teacher really said.

 “Little Johnny?   A “4” ?  Don’t be silly. He and his family are white trash.  How would he ever get a “4”?  And he turned his back and walked away.

Jude then went to talk to the Reading Specialist.

Without any sign of surprise, the Reading Specialist replied, “Oh, you figured it out!  It SHOULD bother you that they lowered your kids test scores.”

Kids.  Scores. Plural.

Jude went back and  looked at the scores again.  So many “1’s” and “2’s”.  Surely Little Sally and Little Brady had done better than that.  How many other children had been given grades lower than they deserved?  These grades would help determine the fifth grade class placement of each child.  Children could be held back because of these scores.

Finally, Jude decided to tell the principal.   It was Jane Brush’s first year as a principal.  A former gym teacher, she had just graduated from the Leadership Academy.  It was up to her to take the next step in what could be a serious case of test tampering.  True to her training, she delegated, or passed the hot potato, to her Assistant Principal, Page Letterman.  A.P. Letterman sat in the principal's office and carefully checked the tests from Jude’s class.  Then she asked for all the 4th grade tests.

While this process was going on, one of the 4th grade teachers, Doreen Grady, knocked on Jude’s classroom door while class was in progress.  When Jude opened the door, Doreen hissed, “We’re going to get you, Jude.  We’re going to get the parents after you.” As soon as she was free, Jude went to the classroom of her UFT Union Representative,  Katy McMillan, and told her what Doreen had said.  Katy simply replied, “Teachers don’t stick together.”  Then she locked the door and slammed it in Jude’s face.

After carefully reviewing all the tests, Assistant Principal Letterman called all the fourth grade teachers down to the principal’s office. “What’s going on?”  she asked.  I’ve reviewed all the tests.  Numbers 2 and 4 which were graded by Jude are all done according to the rubric.  The rest of you have given much lower grades than you should have.”  When she didn’t get a satisfactory answer from them, she asked Jude to leave, and kept the others in the office.

Now we can stop right here, and try to give the other teachers the benefit of the doubt.  It was a new rubric.  They weren’t used to grading tests that way.  They possibly misinterpreted the rubric...  Perhaps they were simply careless.  Remember they had made fun of Jude for being so slow and meticulous.  There was an easy way to find out if the teachers had lowered the scores accidentally or maliciously.  Each teacher had corrected the same questions.  Let’s say Doreen Grady, the teacher who threatened Jude, had been assigned problems 5 and 6.  If she had made the same mistakes on 5 and 6 for all the tests, then she had simply misinterpreted the scoring guide.  If she had not been consistent, and had graded her students and those of friends with a different criteria than she had used on Jude’s class, then she had maliciously tampered with the test.

The next day Leadership Academy Principal Brush called all the 4th grade teachers into her office.  She looked at Jude and told her to apologize to the other 4th grade teachers.

“For what?” gasped Jude.

The principal repeated the order.  Apologize to the other teachers for suggesting that they had graded the tests incorrectly.  Jude replied that she had nothing to apologize for, and that they were the ones who should be apologizing because THEY HAD graded the tests incorrectly—Page Letterman had said so. Apologize?  They could “Kiss My Fat Ass”!!!!!

Leadership Academy Principal Brush then told her that the matter had been resolved and then ordered her not to discuss it with anyone.  Jude was told to leave the office, but  the other 4th grade teachers were asked to remain.

The “matter” was never resolved, because it was covered up.   The cover-up allowed the other 4th grade teachers to carry out Doreen’s threat, and to begin a three-year course of harassment aided and abetted by Leadership Academy Principal Brush.


Chapter 2: Jude's Story -- THE CRIME

Chapter 1: Jude's Story

It was the 2001-2002 academic year and the New York State Math Test had just been administered.  In schools all over the city,  teachers for each grade sat around a table correcting the tests.  Rather than marking the tests of their own students, Jude and the other 4th grade teachers in her school split the work by assigning each teacher to grade the same two or three questions on every 4th grader's test.

There was a very detailed scoring guide for each answer, and Jude carefully read it before marking each student's test.  The other teachers criticized her for being too slow, but she told them that she wanted to be meticulous so that she could be sure that she was giving each student the mark he or she deserved.

After the tests were all graded, the principal published the scores of all the students together with the average for each teacher.  Jude was surprised to find that her students had scored lowest of all the other fourth grade classes.  The highest scoring class was that of the senior teacher on the grade--the one with the most seniority.  She took a closer look, and noticed that the second most senior teacher had the second highest scores, and so on down the list until she reached her name, with the lowest scoring class and the least seniority.  Not only that, but she had walked around the classroom and glanced at students' tests while she was proctoring.  She had been happy to notice that some students were doing very well.   Now she saw that these same children had received very low scores considering what she had observed during the test.

The tests were about to be sent out of the school building to the district office.  Once they were gone, there would be no chance of hiding what might be a very embarrassing case of test tampering.  She decided to tell her principal who delegated the investigation to her assistant principal.  Sure enough, the A.P. found that a large number of tests had been graded incorrectly.  After the tests were regraded Jude's class was first or second of all the fourth grade classes--she can't remember which, because that's not what she cared about.  She cared that her students had not received the grades they deserved.

It turned out that the same thing had happened on the sixth grade.  The class averages had been tied to seniority--most senior teacher, highest scores.  After the regrading, the least senior teacher had the highest scores.

You might be saying--This isn't a crime.  It certainly can't be compared to the Rape of Gertrude Perkins.

No.  This isn't THE CRIME.  It's just the beginning.  A little step out of bounds.  It was all resolved in-house.  No one got sent to the Rubber Room.  But Jude's life would never be the same.


Chapter 3:  Jude's Story, Threats and Coverup

Chapter 1 - Jude's Story - THE AMERICAN DREAM


I met Jude (not her real name) on April 7, 2009, the second day of my internment in the Rubber Room.  We sat side by side for the remaining months of 2008-2009 and for the entire 2009-2010 academic year.  Slowly, over time, she shared stories about her childhood, her family, and her career as an elementary school teacher.  I have chosen to write about her case because it is the most abusive account that I have heard up until now.  Although there was no rape involved, Jude brought Gertrude Perkins to the front of my mind and out of the dusty recesses where she had resided along with other myths, legends, and tales of earlier times.

At first, Jude's life sounds like a true American success story--a black woman who is the beneficiary of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jude grew up in a Bronx neighborhood known for drugs and violence.  However, she wasn't involved in gangs, didn't take drugs, and never committed a crime.  She did, however, graduate from Bronx High School of Science.

If you are from New York, you just sat up and took notice when I mentioned the name of her high school.  If you're not from New York, you'll need a little more explanation.

Bronx Science is one of several specialized high schools that are very difficult to get into.  There are a limited number of seats for thousands of applicants, and a child must take a difficult test and get a very high score in order to get in.  The test--not race, religion, gender, or references--determines whether or not a child is admitted.  It's not who you know, but what you know.  The screening is rigorous, and once you get in you have to work hard to stay in.

Jude graduated from high school in the top 2% of high school graduates in New York City.  She went on to graduate from Hunter College with a major in sociology and a minor in communications.  She then decided to be a teacher and chose to teach in the Bronx in a neighborhood controlled by a gang called the Latin Kings.  She immediately began working on her master's degree and completed it within two years.  At the same time that she started her teaching career and her master's degree, she married and started a family.  Five years later, with two young children, she decided to buy some land on Long Island and build a house of her own design.

As the 1996-1997 school year opened, Jude found herself in an new house, a new neighborhood, and a new working environment.  She had transferred to a school in Queens to make the commute easier.  Her children made the transition easily and began to win honors and medals in their new school on Long Island.  Soon a third child was on the way.

As the millennium approached Judith found herself married with three children; a homeowner; a respected teacher with a masters degree.  She had achieved the American Dream.

During the next ten years she would survive one assault after another, until that dream, like a battle- ground flag, is tattered and torn.  However, the one who carries it is standing tall and has no intention of giving up.

It all began with a crime...


Chapter 2:  Jude's Story, Crime #1

Chapter 3:  Jude's Story, Threats and Coverup