Testimony on February 12, 1998

February 12, 1998
2:30 PM


Q: I'll show you what's been marked as Respondent's Exhibit 42. Do you recall receiving this letter, sir?

A: Yes.

Q: What was your understanding from this letter as to why you got an unsatisfactory rating in the 1994 - 1995 school year?

A: I got an unsatisfactory rating because I wasn't using the techniques that -- that I wasn't implementing the suggestion of instruction that other people were using.

Q: Was it ever mentioned to you by Mr. Bruckner that the students were not learning in your class?

A: No, it wasn't.

Q: Was it ever mentioned to you by Mr. Cohen that students were not learning in your class?

A: No.

Q: Was the objection -- what -- the objection that they were making was what?

A: Was that my methods were not as effective as the methods they were suggesting.

MR. FIELD: This grievance decision is being introduced for the limited purpose of the Observation of May 16th, 1995.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: During the conference -- this appears on the second page. During the conference the parties requested a meeting and they made certain and agreed upon certain changes.

MR. FIELD: Uh-huh.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: Okay. Since the observation of May 16th is in evidence, and this modifies that observation, for that limited purpose, grievance decision; date of conference December 12, 1995.

Q: Do you recall, Dr. Roemer, on the last session you were shown a letter from Mr. Cohen with respect to Regents grades?

A: Yes.

Q: And how many classes did you teach?

A: Three.

Q: And how many classes did the other teachers teach?

A: Well Mr. Eisenstein taught two, and Mr. Marx taught either two or three.

Q: Did you -- in that first year did you have a Regents review during class time?

A: No, I didn't.

Q: Could you tell us, instead of having the Regents review, what did you do?

A: Well, I covered an additional topic in the Regents syllabus.

Q: What topic was that?

A: It was nuclear physics.

Q: What were your reasons for doing that?

A: I thought it would be more interesting for the students than reviewing for the test.

Q: Do you know whether the other teachers reviewed for the test?

A: Yes, Mr. Marx reviewed for the test.

Q: In the second year you were at Edward R. Murrow, how many classes were you assigned for the first cycle in physics.

A: Three sections.

Q: And what did you understand that to mean?

A: Well, I interpreted that to mean I was a satisfactory teacher, and that the -- my -- efforts to seek conciliation were valid.

Q:Could you tell the panel the reason why you did not go to the post-observation conferences?

MR. MAZZARIELLO: I object. I believe this was gone into.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: It was really covered on direct extensively, and the panel - and let me indicate. I think I remember this reasonably well.

The panel has in the record Dr. Roemer's testimony that first he thought the conciliation process was still going on, and second he wanted -- he didn't -- he objected to what I'll call the one-on-one situation, and he wanted an individual of his choosing presumably to be with him at these conferences. That's what we have.

Q: Can you add anything?

A: The other reason is that I felt that by going to the post observation conferences, I would be signaling or indicating that I was willing to change my teaching methods without the conciliation process. I didn't see that that would do any - anybody any good.

Q: Well, when you say you weren't going to change without the conciliation process, can you explain what you mean by that?

A: Well, I was willing to change my teaching methods as part of the conciliation process, and if I went to the post observation, that would be taken as an indication that this was not the case, that I was trying to implement Mr. Bruckner's suggestions.

Q:Well. did you - did you understand the conciliation was still going on?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: And what - what did you expect from the conciliation process?

MR. MAZZARIELLO: I object. This has been gone into extensively.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: At great length. At great length. At great length, really. We're not going to rehash the conciliation process.

I recognize the Respondent has testified at great length, and he has a right to, but we've been through this.

Q: Mr. Bruckner made several suggestions on your lessons. Would you be prepared to accept some of those suggestions?

A: Yes.

Q: Could you tell us which ones in particular?

A: Well, I think the suggestions more from Mr. Cohen for having more hands-on activities.

Q: Dr. Roemer, do you want to teach?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you think - do you feel that you're able to teach physics?

A: Yes. I do.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: I wanted to explain why there was student complaints, my understanding of why there were. The students had the same perception that Mr. Bruckner and Mr. Cohen had, what good teaching and a good lesson is.

They perceive it as being a highly structured, teacher-directed lesson. When the teacher talks, everyone is quiet, and the teacher asks the students questions, and all attention is directed to the student's answer.

MR. MAZZARIELLO: I object. That is not what Ira Cohen said.

HEARlNG OFFICER EDELMAN: That's his perception. That's just his perception, not for the truth contained therein.

A: My lessons were not like that, and they assumed that I wasn't a good teacher. The other reason is that in my classes I demanded from the students Regents level work.

In a highly structured, teacher-directed lesson based on oral communication the student can come in and sit there and listen to the teacher, they get asked questions and they answer questions if they know the answers.

If not, he could not answer or just say, "I don't know." and he can sit there and not do anything and not learn anything.

But in my class that wasn't possible. because I passed out the student lesson plan, and the students had definite tasks to perform.

They had to read the introductory paragraph, and they had to during the class at least understand how to do all of the numbered items.

So I was making demands on the students in the class to do Regents level work, and this, I believe, was one of the causes of the complaints.

HEARING OFFICER: EDELMAN: I have a question. You said in response to Mr. Field's question that - the question was, in essence, what suggestions would you accept of Mr. Bruckner's and Mr. Cohen's, and you said something well, essentially you said. "Well. I would accept Cohen's suggestions regarding"- you said you would accept the suggestions of Mr. Cohen's, the particular reference to hands-on activities.

What suggestions of Mr. Cohen and/or Mr. Bruckner would you not accept?

THE WITNESS: Well, there's really nothing I could say absolutely that it doesn't work. I could honestly say nothing, nothing they said.

MR. FIELD: You mean to say - nothing they've said. What do you mean by that?

THE WITNESS: I believe in asking questions. It wasn't I didn't ask the kids questions. Teaching is complex and personal. It's hard to define, but I could not, you know, reject anything that they said, any ideas they had were perfectly reasonable and worked for different lessons or different teachers and would work for me for certain lessons and certain concepts.

THOMAS MULHOLLAND, called as a witness in behalf of the Respondent herein, having been duly sworn by a Notary Public of the State of New York, upon being examined, testified as follows:


Q: By whom are you employed?

A: New York City Board of Ed.

Q: In what capacity?

A: I'm a teacher.

Q: And a teacher of what?

A: Physics.

Q: And how long have you been a teacher, sir?

A: 12 years.

Q: Are you familiar with professional societies for physics teachers?

A: Yes. I belong to some.

Q: What is that?

A: The American Association of Physics Teachers, and then locally we have the Physics Club of New York.

Q: And is that for physics teachers?

A: Yes.

Q: And are you an officer of that?

A: Yes.

Q: What office do you have?

A: I'm the president of that club.

Q: Are you familiar with the teaching of physics?

A: Yeah.

A: Is there any one particular method in the teaching of physics?

MR. MAZZARIELLO: I object. Are we talking about methodology required by the New York City Board of Education, such as developmental lesson plans, or outside of New York City public schools?

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: I ask you to qualify that Mr. Field.

Q: Within the system -- city system, is there a particular method to be used in teaching physics?

A: Not that I know of. That's mandated that we use?

Q: Yes.

A: Not to my knowledge.

Q: Are you familiar with the method that Dr. Roemer was using?

MR. MAZZARIELLO: I object. we still don't know the name of the method. This method has no name. What method is he referring to. Mr. Edelman?

THE HEARING OFFICER: Let's do this. How are you familiar with what he does?

THE WITNESS: He presented a paper at the Science Council of New York conference. They have an annual conference, and Dr. Roemer submitted presented a paper at that, and he read the paper. I wasn't at his presentation, I have seen what he was trying to do.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: Mr. Field, I'm going to sustain the objection. That's not a sufficient basis for this witness to testify as to what methodology, whether named or not, that Dr. Roemer utilizes. You may want to submit the paper, and I may take the paper in evidence. May.

MR. FIELD: I'll get it out right now.


(Whereupon, the document was handed to all parties)

MR. MAZZARIELLO: Again. Mr. Edelman -

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: Never saw this before?


MR. FIELD: I believe we tried to introduce this before.

MR. MAZZARIELLO: Mr. Edelman, Mr. Edelman.

MR. FIELD: We tried to introduce this before.


MR. MAZZARIELLO: I've never seen this document before.

MR. FIELD: I believe you objected vehemently, Mr. Mazzariello. I believe you did.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: I have to tell you , with all due respect, I don't understand the probative value, Mr. Field.

This relates to a series of lessons and -- series of questions and comments regarding a series of lessons or we'll call them -- lessons that are then appended.

Now, Dr. Roemer has been afforded substantial opportunity to testify as to the lessons that he utilized in the classes in question, and to give his -- his comments and to really tell us anything he wants with respect to those lessons.

How this has any relation to this proceeding is beyond me. In fact, the first page apparently is by and large a recitation of what he already testified to in terms of his past experience.

MR. FIELD: Particularly we want to call attention to what is set forth on Page 3 and 4. the reasons why Dr. Roemer gives us the methodology.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: He testified amply in that regard, as he had a right to. The fact that he converted it to paper form and gave it at a conference, I respect him for that, but it doesn't. you know, lend probative value to this proceeding. Sustained.

Q: Mr. Mulholland, have you reviewed the lessons plans that Dr. Roemer used in teaching physics?

A: Yes. I've seen some.

Q: Are you able to form a judgment as to those lessons plans?

A: Yeah. I think they're adequate.

Q: You mentioned that Dr. Roemer gave a paper, and you've read his paper that he gave.

A: Yes.

Q: The reasons that he gave for teaching the way he does, is that consistent with current ideas?

MR. MAZZARIELLO: OBJECTION. This witness has never seen Mr. Roemer in the classroom.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: He read his paper. That's what he did.

MR. FIELD: He read the paper.

MR. MAZZARIELLO: How does that translate into his ability to decipher that information? Mr. Roemer has never been criticized for his knowledge of the subject. It's how he presents it to the classroom.

MR. FIELD: All right, strike.

Q: A student lesson plan that shifts responsibility for learning from the teacher to the students, is that consistent in your opinion with the current ideas on teaching?

MR. MAZZARIELLO: Objection. Current ideas of teaching in what district and what school? Who's the principal?

Q: Teaching --

MR. MAZZARIELLO: The witness has testified that there was no methodology, no set standard in the system,and I believe Bruckner and Cohen testified they never tried to inflict a methodology upon this man.

Therefore, I fail to see the relevance of the question and how this witness is even going to justify the answer.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: Let me say this. I don't think there's actually any dispute. There's no doubt that his witness would be able to state, based upon his background and his experience, that any particular method articulated in Dr. Roemer's paper is indeed -- can indeed be a proper method.

But there is also no doubt that this witness has no first-hand knowledge of what Dr. Roemer has done in the classroom.

So other than the so-called formalistic view that these things can work, that's really what the witness is saying, and he has a right to say it, but that's all we're left with, Mr. Field. These things can work, and I think we appreciate that these things, as Dr. Roemer said, can work.

HEARING OFFICER EDELMAN: Mr. Mazzariello, are you ready?

MR. MAZZARIELLO: First of all, I would like to thank the panel members for their time and dedication to the case.

I appreciate also you, Mr. Edelman. Mr. Field, that you for being an attorney and advocate for your client.

It pains me to tell you that the chancellor of the board of education and myself are asking you to terminate this individual from employment at the board.

We simply don't want him to work for us anymore. I think he has demonstrated his inability to conduct himself in a professional manner, in which a teacher in this school system, anywhere actually,any teacher anywhere as far as I'm concerned, should behave.

Ladies and gentlemen, the overwhelming amount of documentation presented in this trial is just conclusive to one fact, that Mr. Roemer can't teach. It's as simple as that.

This man does not have the ability to listen; does not have the ability to take into account what his supervisor says and incorporate it as well, to learn like the children, go with the flow and learn.

We have a stack of charges, which in my opinion have been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, never mind a preponderance of evidence.

We have a tenured teacher here who was rated consecutive "U"s, was rated "U" two years in a row. He was excessed out of three schools. That should tell you in and of itself.

He was observed when he first got there, the first charge. The first charge was unsatisfactory, and it just kept getting worse, and they tried to help him. They tried remediation.

For you to terminate, we had to have proved there was some kind of remediation afforded this man.

What more could we have done? When I say, "we", I mean the board of ed. What more could we have done to help this man?

Make it very clear in your head. I know it sounds bad, and I could say really mean things, which I don't want to do, but this man is not a teacher. he's not a teacher. He can't get up there in the class and teach.

And make no mistake. We don't want him back. Don't send him back. I don't want a year's suspension. I don't want a three year's suspension. I want him gone. Just make in very clear.

He was afforded two years, two ears to get better. They sat down with him. "Come to the pre-observation conference." "No. Conciliation," "Come to the post-observation conference. "No. Conciliation."

His whole case was this conciliation process. Can you -- I mean, I;m offended at that defense, that "I didn't want to get better because it would be like I was giving in." That the hell does that mean? What is that?

What about the kids? That's the other thing that's left out of their whole equation in Dr. Roemer's head, the children. How many children complained? How many parents complained?

The test scores. On direct examination under his own attorney, he had great test scores. Then I whipped out that document that showed that his test scores weren't as good as he had said they were. Liar, liar, pants on fire. Also, oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

He lied to you. That's not very nice to do. He didn't come here and be truthful, be remorseful, trying to get his job, because I could understand that, but that is not the case.

He had the kids caught. The children are the ones who suffered. These are high school students getting ready to go to college in one of the best schools in the system. It ranks. Its up there.

What did he do for them? Nothing. Can you imagine how boring this man is in class? Just imagine how boring he is. You have to be a little animated. You don't have to be a jokester. You don't have to have charisma and be charismatic, but you have to more than monotone. You have to be more than boring.

You know how to teach something. You put the aim on the board. You do the motivation. While they're doing the motivation you take care of our class, and you get your aim. You do a remedial summary. You do a final summary.

Nobody was telling him what kind of methodology to use. Saul Bruckner testified to it. Ira Cohen testified to it. They said it. They told you under oath. "I did not tell this man how to teach. He came into my school. Do and teach how you want to teach."

He was so stuck on the fact that "These people are attacking me for my methodology." He still -- he still has it in his little beady head that he was --


MR. MAZZARIELLO: He still has it stuck in his head that it was the methodology that Ira and Joyce Coppin were stuck on. Well, guess what? It wasn't the methodology. That's how clueless this man is. It's not the methodology. It's that you have to get up there and say, this is physics. This is how you have to teach it.

You could know it. You could definitely know your subject, and I'm not so sure anymore if he even knows it, but you have to -- you have to then teach it. You have to prepare a lesson plan.

You know they were going the other way. "Here comes Roemer. Go the other way. Let's roam the halls." That was the joke of the school.

MR. FIELD: Objection. There's no evidence --

MR. MAZZARIELLO: The stupid lesson plans. Please. You have all of this documentation. Read it. Go through it. You have all the time in the world, because there is time before Mr. Field submits his response to this summation and his own. Those are not lesson plans. I don't even see it working in his methodology, which has no name.

Look how many times he was told to come to the post observation conference. I'm not going because of the conciliation. I though the conciliation." You know what he can do with the conciliation process. I would tell you, but Mr. Edelman will yell at me.


MR. MAZZARIELLO: I could tell him what to do with it. I'd really like to tell him man to man, face to face on the sidewalk in the middle of the street what he could do with that conciliation process.