This article was originally published on December 18, 2014. It has since been updated to include this video and the news that unfortunately the teacher was terminated by NYCDOE Labor Relations Director David Brodsky. Another lawyer, who advises the principal in this retaliatory action is Gillian Kost, Esq. (Note: DOE Senior Field Counsel Mr. Gillian Kost’s name has appeared on many discontinuance letters that have been presented to us.)
Note: This probationary bilingual teacher was previously rated “Effective” at her previous two schools. She is fluent in three languages and recently spoke at the December 2014 NYCDOE meeting at Long Island City HS (video here).
Read her story of uncovering violations, that hurt students, and the retaliation that soon followed.
This is my story of being a caring, dedicated, and a hardworking teacher that spoke up and advocated for my bilingual class that I loved. Now I am faced with the possibility of a discontinuance of probationary service.
This is my story of being a young teacher, devoting my weekdays by being one of the first people to arrive and one of the last to leave, and now being subject to potential discontinuance. This will effectively make me ineligible to teach in the NYC Public School System.
I believe that I have been treated unfairly based upon being a young teacher with health issues. Moreover, I believe that my discontinuance is in retaliation for my raising serious issues concerning PS 30 X.’s noncompliant dual language program. My second year as a teacher I was rated as an effective teacher. My first year as a teacher I was rated as a satisfactory teacher. I have never had any disciplinary actions prior to arriving at P.S. 30 X., Wilton School in the Bronx.
I was accused of insubordination on October 3, 2014, which was totally unfounded. The day before I was confronted by my assistant principal, Maria Martinez. Earlier that morning I was at Harlem Hospital being treated for a severe allergic reaction. I am deathly allergic to peanut products.
As I love my students, and am a dedicated teacher, I still went into PS 30 X. on October 3rd to teach. Later that day, my assistant principal, Maria Martinez confronted me and advised that the superintendent would not want to see “a weak fragile girl” teaching here. She also asked me three times, “Do you want to quit? Two teachers have already quit. I have to know.” I note that previously as early as September 23rd Ms. Martinez had asked, “Is this what you want to do. Are you going to quit?”
The next day, which was October 3, 2014, I felt the need to clarify two issues with my assistant principal in order that I would not be continued to be bullied and harassed. I indicated I wanted to teach at the school and I wasn’t a “weak, fragile, girl.” Upon hearing that the assistant principal raised her voice and thought I was being disrespectful she ordered me out of her office. The following Monday she wrote me up for insubordination and her whole entire statement is fabricated. After our disciplinary conference, she found two witnesses that have the same handwriting, to write statements, and one statement is even undated. Clearly, since they are two rooms down, they would not have been able to hear anything that transpired between the two of us. From that day onward, I believe my assistant principal targeted me and the rest of my administration supported her actions.
I had an informal observation with the two assistant principals, Maria Martinez and Mark Fili, who were desirous of writing me up ahead of time as ineffective. They indicated that I did not support the goals of the dual language program which isn’t true. The problem is that they do not have a 50-50 dual language program. They are in noncompliance with state law as they do not provide any Native Language Arts Instruction. In fact, in our dual language model where we alternate languages weekly, during Spanish week we provide for 5 periods of literacy instruction in English. This program not being 50-50 at all makes it very impossible to teach and reach the students‘ needs in Spanish.
I emailed the principal in response to this evaluation. I pointed out that in order to evaluate me as a dual language teacher it would be important for there to actually be a dual language curriculum. In this way our school would be in compliance with state law. The bilingual coordinator had indicated that we are out of compliance and must become compliant immediately. I also indicated in an email that in order to be the best possible bilingual teacher to my students we need a curriculum and proper time allotted to Native Language Arts Instruction. These emails were intentionally left out of the discontinuance package.
Shortly thereafter, I was removed from my classroom and was placed as the math cluster teacher. I was told by the principal, Debra Michaux, that this was being done for my best interest and that I was not right for the program. Then, a common branch Hispanic teacher replaced me who did not have the proper bilingual extension like myself. A parent saw me at dismissal and was complaining to me that I am no longer their child’s teacher and that the new teacher was not teaching their child Spanish.
What is most unfortunate about all of this is that I had developed a rapport with my students. My students and I enjoyed engaging lessons about creating new scenes to Charlotte’s Web, rocks, New York City, and place value. The day before I was removed, 19 out of my 20 students’ parents attended Parent Teacher Conferences and only had positive feedback about my teaching performance. In addition, now that I am no longer their teacher, they come running to me whenever or wherever they see me and indicate that they miss me. The actions of the administration did not consider who would be most affected by this retaliation which is the children.
In summary, I believe the rationale for my potential discontinuance of probationary service is pretextual and the administration of this school did not think that I fit into the school based upon my background. Moreover, after I raised a legitimate issue concerning curriculum of Native Language Arts, I was retaliated against.
This teacher’s fate is now in the hands of Community Superintendent Yolanda Torres, Senior Superintendent Laura Feijoo, and the lawyers at the DOE’s Office of Employee Relations, David Brodsky and Karen Solimando.