How the district tried to suspend me or maybe you should be part of the union too. (rough draft)
First let me say I have been critical of the union when I felt they deserved it. I have long said I think DTU has done as good as job as anybody with pay and benefits but I thought we have missed the boat with being accommodating to the district and it hasn’t done enough to protect rank and file teachers from poor working conditions and bullies masquerading as administrators. All that being said they really came through for me.
Sometime in late February I was called into the office of professional practices to discuss an investigation. Initially they wouldn’t even tell me if I was the subject of the investigation or not so I refused saying, no thanks. I was then told it was the expectation that I cooperate. I contacted the union and they agreed to send one of their lawyers with me.
Up until a day or two before the meeting I was convinced it had something to do with school board member Scott Shine calling me a liar in a state wide publication. http://floridapolitics.com/archives/201991-duval-school-board-tensions-simmer-charter-fight-escalates
I guess him doing so is okay. It turns out however it was about a supposed Facebook exchange that somebody reported.
I wracked my brain and remembered commenting on a news site and somebody coming back calling me an idiot or something to that effect and whether I was particularly outraged or maybe just bored we had an exchange that could only make 12 year old boys proud. At one point he said, Ha I am going to cut and paste this and send it to the district to get you in trouble to which I replied go for it, thinking who does stuff like that and if they did nothing I said warranted any kind of punishment and would be summarily dismissed. Boy was I wrong.
Mind you I had no idea what the exchange was about, what was said, who it was with or when it happened. Basically I remembered a spirited exchange, them saying, I am going to get you in trouble and me saying, go for it.
So when I was called in I was shown a cut and pasted Facebook exchange. I repeated what I wrote above to the investigator, told them I didn’t think I said anything like what was sitting in front of me and asked them to show it to me on-line so I could see what they were talking about. They said they couldn’t. Friends I have to say I immediately lost interest right there and thought the matter was over as did the lawyer. So you can’t show it to me I asked? No the investigator responded. Did any of my parents, colleagues or students complain? No again said the investigator. What a complete waste of time I thought.
That was until late March when the superintendent recommended a five day suspension for me, saying I had two ethics violation. The lawyer and I were both stunned. So I said lets fight it, this has nothing to do with evidence or facts, this is the super and admin taking an opportunity to punish a teacher that they don’t care for.
The lawyer agreed and was quite confident that it would be overturned by an appeals judge but the nature of the process is such that you take the suspension and later when it is overturned you are reimbursed.
It was at this point I learned who had leveled the charges against me and please forgive me while I put on my Mel Gibson Conspiracy Theory hat. The person’s name is Rick Hoefield and his Facebook page would make your cray cray uncle Jimmy blush. https://www.facebook.com/rick.hoening.7?fref=ts
It is full of borderline misogynistic, homophobic, and racist memes. Furthermore he hadn’t posted anything for years on his page until a day or two before our interaction and hasn’t posted anything since my suspension was handed down. Those are some big coincidences and to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if he was Scott Shine’s squash partner. Where I have no evidence of that I have seen other comments he made where he attacks and calls people names. This was the districts star witness and a cut and paste face book exchange was the evidence and together were what the district was going to use to suspend me.
When I discussed what was going on with friends I would use the word, surreal. Let me segue now.
Also some of you might be aware at this time a citizen spoke at a school board meeting bout the superintendent having an affair and shipping his mistress and a love child off.
This is a pretty persistent rumor that I have heard over and over again from many different sources but never found it to have enough merit to comment on. Now however I wondered if the school board was going to punish the superintendent for this accusation not that I think he should be punished but because the level of proof was about the same level that was going to get me a five day suspension. In short, because somebody said so.
The district came dangerously close to French Revolution standards of evidence for teachers where a mere accusation was enough for somebody to be punished but again only for teachers.
Dangerously close until the union told the district, we’re going to fight this one and the district will in all likelihood lose and a few days later the district came back and said, okay we’ll rescind the suspension and just put a letter in my file.
I am not happy about the letter but I am happy that the district didn’t lower the bar to the point where anything approaching proof wasn’t need in order to punish teachers. I am also thankful that the union was there for me.
Finally when I started the blog some years back, I wanted it to be a place where people, mostly teachers and parents could come together and discuss problems and find solutions. Where I have had dozens and dozens of contributors it hasn’t worked out quite that way and I have done the lion’s share of posting but I never wanted the story to be about me.
The sad truth friends is I just don’t see things getting better in fact I see them getting worse as super after super and board member after board member has come and gone and the problems get worse and worse. I think because of that I have become jaded and a bit snarky which probably isn’t a good combination when you write about people who I honestly believe some may be decent but who are either in over their heads, thin skinned and are there to serve only their hubris. I recognize that the blog has become a little more biting than it needs to be and that’s on me and that’s something I will work on.
I hope at the same time the district realizes that they can’t just push people around and there is a right and wrong way of doing things, what they tried to do to me falls into the plain wrong camp.
We me included can and should be doing better.