Rubber Rooms


I subscribe to the This American Life podcast, a radio show produced by Chicago Public Radio.

Last weekend's episode, which I just listened to yesterday, was titled "Human Resources." For those who don't know, This American Life is separated into Acts--which means stories. An episode has three Acts, it has three different stories. Act 1 on this particular episode left me flabbergasted.

And I will tell you why.

I think that my local school district is pretty darn dismal. Most people living in the area would agree. And, based on my professional interactions with the school district, well, I've had first hand knowledge of the dysfunction that exists on all levels. However, I think the New York Board of Education has them beat, hands down.

It's not easy to fire a teacher. When a teacher in the New York district is reprimanded, accused of something, etc and so on, they are "re-assigned" pending an investigation. The WHERE these teachers go and HOW LONG they stay there. New York has 12 "Re-assignment Centers." There's a euphemism if I've ever heard one. Sounds rather Nazi-like, doesn't it?

Re-assignment centers are affectionately known to the locals as "Rubber Rooms." Re-assigned teachers spend the entire school day in the Rubber Room until their case is resolved. From what I can gather, it's basically an empty room with a bunch of chairs or desks. Kind of like an in-school suspension. The teachers sit there, all day, every day, doing absolutely no work. And still getting paid. The culture of the re-assignment center, as described on This American Life, closely resembles the cultures that develop in prisons.

Teachers are rarely told why they are re-assigned. Many are able to deduce the reason they were sent to the Rubber Room, but many are not. The best part? Due to the massiveness of the New York Board of Education and its apparent lack of organization--teachers often remain in these Rubber Rooms for months, even years. Granted, these are teachers awaiting an investigation related to disciplinary action. But they haven't exactly been found "guilty."

And remember, they are still collecting their full salaries.


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