By Ben Velderman
NEW YORK – It appears that some New York City school leaders have become so desperate to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom as quickly and inexpensively as possible that they are willing to lie and alter official records to do so.
In an investigative report, The New York Post suggests that officials in the city’s Department of Education have a standing offer with bad teachers: They will wipe out all of a teacher’s unsatisfactory job ratings and replace them with satisfactory ratings if the teacher agrees to quit or retire.
School officials will even provide the ousted teachers with a “neutral letter” documenting their employment with the district, which can be used to seek a teaching position with another school district, the paper reports.
That, of course, leaves other unsuspecting administrators vulnerable to hiring subpar teachers. Tough luck for the kids at the new school.
The Post discovered evidence of the deal in an email from a school district lawyer to a perennially underperforming teacher who had two consecutive years of bad performance ratings.
“The teacher is accused of failing to carry out lessons, sloppy record keeping and poor classroom management, among other charges,” the newspaper reports.
Those ratings provide the district with enough grounds for firing the teacher. But under teacher tenure rules, the fired educator could appeal the decision, which would throw the matter to an administrative law judge. That could cause the process to drag on for months or years, forcing the New York City district to spend a small fortune on legal fees.
And even then, there’s no guarantee a judge will uphold the firing.
The legal process is only part of the problem. Teachers unions are notorious for supporting their incompetent members, providing them with legal representation that helps them negotiate favorable resignation terms.
Instead of facing all that expense and uncertainty, New York City officials are willing to offload their bad teachers onto other unsuspecting school districts.
And that has many New Yorkers upset.
“They’re making a mockery of the entire system,” one veteran teacher told the Post. “If someone is found incompetent, it should go on their permanent record. The DOE should not be Monty Hall on ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’”
“It says to teachers, ‘We didn’t mean it when we brought you up on charges. Let someone else worry about how bad or good you are. We just want you out,’” Betsy Combier, a paralegal who helps defend teachers in discipline cases, told the Post.
One member of the state Board of Regents blasted DOE’s decision to deal, calling it “unethical” and “a lie.”
But not everyone agrees that the district is acting unethically.
An unnamed hearing officer defended the district’s decision as a way to save time, money and to get a guaranteed result.
“It’s morally right, because New York kids will not have to suffer with a teacher who’s allegedly incompetent. She’s out. She’s gone,” he told the Post, adding that potential employers can do their own research on the teacher.
Actually, confidentiality laws make it very difficult for district leaders to discover the truth about a teaching candidate. There have been several instances in which a new school district has been duped into hiring an ineffective – and occasionally dangerous – teacher.
By offloading their bad teachers unto students in other school districts, some New York City school officials are acting unethically and should be removed from their positions.