President of The United Federation of Teachers
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
An Open Letter to Randi Weingarten. Esq.
From David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A.
Please Stand Up For The United States Constitution
Joel Klein's Board of Education Has Crossed the Line
New York City Dept of Education Charges a Teacher of the Year With The Crime of Being the Subject of a UFT News Article in The New York Teacher.
Is The Bill of Rights Now Under Siege Also, Along With the UFT ?
I have taught for 37 years and been both decorated and honored in New York's City Hall for my contributions to this City by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. It was my distinct honor to have former UFT Vice President Frank Carucci at my side when that happened.
But from the time I wrote a respectful letter to Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq. on October 2, 2003 my life changed forever. I wished only to alert him to the fact that egregious Civil Rights violations were occuring at the school where I taught Medical Illustration. But from that instant on I became the subject of a non stop vendetta of massive retaliation and harassment that has continued to this day.
Although I was exonerated both in a NYC DOE Trial and vindicated by the City's own hand picked Medical Arbitrator of the knowingly false claims of the DOE Medical Office that I was "not fit for Duty", the continuous retaliation against me by Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.'s Board of Education has continued to this moment. This is all well known and was the subject of an in depth story written by a UFT reporter, Jim Callaghan in his March 15, 2007 story: "Whistle-blower axed--again". That UFT expose documented in great detail, including an admission from my immediate Supervisor at the school, Giovanni Raschilla, AP, that the Principal, Hilda Nieto told him that "she was under orders from Region 9 to 'get something on Pakter' ".
After being removed from my position on trumped up charges and then illegally assigned to the NYC DOE's most infamous "Rubber Room", a small windowless space on the 6th floor of a building on 125th Street in Harlem, I had no choice but to wait to see what type of charges the NYC DOE would bring against me for my second trial. This past week I finally received those detailed charges, most of which represented typical NYC DOE boiler plate language. But "Specification Charge number 6 came as a shock even to my jaded eyes quite familiar with DOE jargon when charging teachers. I quote it here verbatim:
SPECIFICATION 6: Respondent's actions caused widespread negative publicity and notoriety to the High School of Fashion Industries and the New York City Department of Education in general when his unprofessional behavior was referenced in a UFT Newspaper.
Did you or I or any of the millions of other citizens of this great city ever think in our wildest imagination that a day would arrive when a former Federal Prosecutor, appointed by a NYC Mayor would, while in control of the largest school system in America, decide that the United States Constitution applied to everyone but him. But that stunning fact has now come to pass. For despite the fact that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically guarantees freedom of speech and more important in this instance, freedom of the press, a decorated educator and loyal UFT member of 37 years is now being charged with the crime of having the long and ruthless vendetta perpetrated against him, reported in the UFT Newspaper, The New York Teacher.
Are we not now looking into the abyss? Into that bottomless crack in the world into which any great democracy can easily fall, tumbling to its doom, if those who prize liberty are not vigilant. Are we not now witnessing the fetid fruit of what can happen when those who rule our great nation are allowed for too long to make light and even defecate on those liberties we have inherited from the Founding Fathers and which we have defended time and again down all the generations of this great Nation, with our precious blood.
Is the Washington, DC political climate of the past several years and the musings of our "mission accomplished" Commander in Chief to be blamed for what we are now witnessing in the New York City Dept/Board of Education, a 17 billion dollar conglomerate that is under the almost exclusive control of one man. An individual who like our President, perceives himself to be the Great Decider and the final arbiter in all things having to do with the education and nurturing of more than one million public school children, many of whom were left out in the cold, last Winter, figuratively and literally due to his gross incompetence and ever ready willingness to spend millions of tax payer dollars on his ever ready and willing "consultants".
No doubt Mr. Klein is determined that my upcoming trial, the second, will also be my last and put the last nail in my coffin as an educator. His high opinion of himself (a legend in his own mind) and limitless Hubris have even convinced him that the next Mayor of New York City will wish to retain the services of Mr. Joel Klein, Esq. as Chancellor of the NYC Schools system. Is delusional the proper word here?
But what you should focus on, Randi, is that if a New York teacher must feel afraid to report wrongdoing, especially to a reporter and if that teacher believes the NYC DOE can actually charge a teacher, as in my case, for providing information to a free press, in this case your own UFT newspaper, The New York Teacher, then what is left of this great union. What were all the years of work and sacrifice on the part of the United Federation of Teachers for, whose legacy stretches back to that immortal Labor Leader Albert Shanker who helped build this great union into the important force it became in the world of education.
Some believe you may one day go to Washington yourself to carry on your work in the field of Education on a national level. I for one, hope that event comes to pass. You have often shown yourself to be a person of courage as well as a woman of enormous courage, something which thousands of admiring people recently witnessed and have praised you for.
When you agreed one year ago to publish my story and how I had been bullied, harassed and retaliated against by Chancellor Joel Klein's DOE for being a Whistle-blower, I was grateful to you beyond words and had flowers delivered to your office the day after that news story appeared in The New York Teacher, the official UFT newspaper.
But now with these latest charges brought against me it is clear that this same newspaper is under attack simply for the "crime" of printing the truth and I am being portrayed as as accessory after the fact for the "crime" of believing we still have a functioning Bill of Rights in America that protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The hour is late, Randi, and Mr. Klein is determined that regardless of when he stops being the Chancellor of our Schools system, that I will go first. It is literally a David versus Goliath contest. On his side Mr. Klein rules a 17 billion dollar agency.
On my side, I have only the courage of my convictions and the belief that it is yet not too late to make our United States Constitution and our Bill of Rights stand for something in this great Nation. I may fall in this battle. But it is most important that our Union and we as a people do not fall or falter in this struggle to protect the rights and freedoms of all teachers, of all New Yorkers, of all Americans.
Sometimes Randi we do not choose our place in history but rather the long arm of Destiny does that for us. When Rosa Parks boarded a public bus so long ago she could have had no idea that she was boarding a journey into history.
If you will one day go to Washington, then go as a woman who stood up for the United States Constitution. Go to Washington as a person who long after our country's birth, still believed that The Bill of Rights was still relevant and still worth fighting for, shoulder to shoulder down all the corridors of time.
I know the enormous damage our country has suffered due to years of poor leadership is also reflected in the stories of the countless innocent teachers in your union who have been condemned, some for years, to the horrors of the NYC DOE Rubber Rooms for teachers, simply for exercising their First Amendment Rights.
Your time has come, Randi. That time is now, that place is here. If you but listen you will hear that clarion call in the air summoning you to meet the challenge of our time.
That is to say the challenge to breathe new life into those historic documents that have preserved this great Nation for more than two hundred years. People like Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq. a self inflated autocrat and bully will be consigned to the scrap heap of history soon enough. You however have the opportunity to live on in perpetuity as will Albert Shanker, (and Sandra Feldman) your predecessors at the helm of the United Federation of Teachers.
At a time in history when unions have never been more under siege and when the rights of every American, set forth by our Forefathers before us and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, have never been more under siege, what our Nation needs most is courageous leaders of high ethics. Leaders who no force on God's earth can sway from their duty to protect the values our Nation stands for and holds dear.
You can, and for the sake of our United States Constitution, you must rise to this occasion, Randi. I know you possess the courage and the ability and the resolve to do so to meet this gravest challenge of our time - the assault on the inalienable rights of all teachers, of all citizens, of all Americans, indeed, on the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
And I believe you will answer this call.
In Solidarity and With Deepest Respect,
New York City, October 22, 2007