Thursday, August 31, 2006


In South America. Will be back Monday!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Purple Stapler Podcast

Public radio veteran Tony Kahn interviews Miss Dennis about teaching special education in the South Bronx. Miss Dennis reads a version of The Purple Stapler. To listen to the podcast, visit WGBH's Morning Stories website, or download the MP3 file here. On the website, it's currently the second story down - "My Little Purple Stapler." No need for downloading on the site.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Dear Commisioner Mills,

Thanks to Statcounter, I am aware that you, or someone who works for you, found my letter on this blog on August 11 at 10:48am through a Google blog search for "commissioner mills." I am impressed that your office is interested in what bloggers have to say about you. Clearly, you are savvy to the wieldy presence that bloggers now have in national political and education arenas. Being appointed, after all, does not make you immune to public outrage.

I think it's great that your office was able to access the letter on my blog before receiving the paper copy that I mailed to you. You (or your colleague) spent four minutes on the page, just enough time to read and consider the letter. Since I now know (and have proof) that your office accessed the letter, I am holding you accountable. I expect a response. My current teaching license expires on August 31st, and I still have not received a response from the Office of Teaching Initiatives. I do not expect you to allow an inefficient licensing system to keep a fully qualified special education teacher out of the classroom in New York City.

By the way, you may also be interested in checking out some of the blogs that linked to my letter: USA Today's Tech_Space, The Carnival of Education - Week 79, Teach Effectively. Enjoy.


Miss Dennis

P.S. If you did not conduct the Google blog search, and would like to know who in your office did, I'd be happy to provide you with their Internet Protocol address. The Internet Service Provider is New York State Education Department in Albany, New York.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Will Politicians Respond to a Special Ed Teacher?

Mr. Joel Klein
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Mr. Richard P. Mills
State Education Department
Education Building
Albany, NY 12234

Mr. Michael Bloomberg
Mayor of New York City
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Messrs. Klein, Mills and Bloomberg:

I am a highly qualified special educator with a Master’s degree from U.C. Berkeley. I teach children with autism. I completed the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) program in June ‘05. I would like to inform you of the types of bureaucratic roadblocks that many highly qualified New York City and State teachers experience when applying for their teaching licenses. I would also appreciate your help in getting to the bottom of why my permanent special education teaching license has not yet been issued.

I have called and emailed NYCTF and the NY State Office of Teaching Initiatives about this matter. I have not yet received a response. The details I describe below are rather complicated and lengthy, but I feel it is important that you follow them so you can better understand the extent of the hassles that many of your current and potential teachers are experiencing. We are not the ones creating these complications. We just want to teach.

I began applying for my permanent teaching license more than one year ago, in July 2005, when I completed the NYCTF program and met all qualifications for the permanent license. At that time, I discovered that my Transitional B license had never been issued, despite the fact that I properly submitted my application via NYCTF and Mercy College in Summer 2003. NYCTF and Mercy staff assured me in Fall 2003 that my Trans B license had been issued, but when I asked for a copy of the license, they told me that NYSED did not issue paper licenses. Even Vicki Bernstein (Director of Alternative Certification) told me during a telephone conversation that my Trans B license had been issued. She was wrong. It is now clear that she never even bothered to check.

So after two years of teaching special ed in the South Bronx through NYCTF and taking night and weekend education courses, I discovered that I didn’t even have a basic teaching license. Mercy College and NYCTF blamed the state for the problem, and the state blamed Mercy. Mercy acknowledged that they had a copy of my correctly completed Trans B application dated August 2003. Still, I had to submit an entirely new Trans B application. This mess with my Trans B application was finally cleared up in January 2006 (almost 2.5 years after it should have been issued). In the end, my Trans B license was issued 01/27/06, made effective 9/1/03, and it expires 8/31/06. (Yes, these dates are correct.)

Once my Trans B license was issued, I was finally able to apply for the permanent license (which, again, I’ve had the qualifications for since 7/05). I received confirmation through USPS return receipt that my permanent application was received by NYSED on 3/23/06. My information was entered into the Teach Online system on 4/29/06. I applied through individual transcript review (since Mercy dropped the ball on offering a special ed degree, but that is another long, frustrating issue). I received a letter from the Office of Teaching Initiatives dated 4/29/06, stating that my permanent application had been received and that the evaluation process could take up to 4-6 weeks because of the high volume of applications.

It's been over 14 weeks since that letter was written, over 19 weeks since my permanent application was actually received by the Office of Teaching Initiatives, and over one year since I began the process of applying for my permanent license only to find that my Trans B license had never been issued. I still don’t have my permanent license.

This is beyond outrageous. If I were you, frankly, I’d be mortified that this is happening in New York. I began my teaching career in Vietnam, and I never imagined that the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department would subject me to more red tape than the Hanoi Ministry of Education.

I am currently transitioning to a new teaching job, and I do not appreciate having to live with the anxiety of not knowing whether or not I will be able to keep my new job because of all this trouble with my license. I am quite sure that my students and their parents would not appreciate losing a highly qualified autism teacher due to a bureaucratic snafu. My Trans B license expires in just a few weeks. There are no deficiencies in my qualifications for a permanent license. There is no reason for the hold up.

New York is in desperate need of special educators, particularly highly qualified special educators who have extensive autism training. Why put someone in my position through so much trouble when I am eager to teach children with autism, and I am more than qualified? There is something seriously wrong with this system, and I am by no means the only teacher who is fed up with it. I hope each of your offices will take action to help me and the many other teachers in simililar situations. No qualified teacher should have to put up with such nonsense.


Miss Dennis