Class Dismissed

Lousy teachers or just political victims: there's got to be a better way to settle teacher disputes than New York's rubber rooms

But the DOE says that the numbers of teachers involved is small. "We're talking about 662 people out of a workforce of 80,000 teachers and roughly 6,000 administrators," Meyer says. "The vast majority is not affected."

The union, meanwhile, says that the rubber room system is preferable to the alternative: suspending teachers without pay until their cases were adjudicated. "There would be even more delays. Cases would drag on forever," Weingarten says. "We want these cases dealt with as soon as possible and not delayed for months and months . . . More than three years ago, I proposed creating a super-arbitrator system to clear the backlog of cases. The DOE rejected that."

Meanwhile, stuck with the rubber room system, life—or something like it—goes on in the city's reassignment centers. Jeremy Garrett, the former teacher who was sneaking into rubber rooms with videocameras to make his film, was arrested on April 18 when teachers objected to his presence. He was charged with criminal trespass.

photo illustration by Chad Griffith

And also last week, one teacher the Voice talked to, Ronald Mortensen Jr., a physical education teacher who worked with special education students, was run over and killed by a car on his lunch break. He was serving his second stint in the rubber room.

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