Op-Ed by Larry Sand
Back in 1975, I lost my 6th-grade teaching position in New York City. As a newbie, it was explained to me that this happened because the city was going bankrupt, and had to lay off several thousand teachers as part of the corrective process. I was told that the reason I was being shown the door had nothing to do with the quality of my teaching, but rather it was due to the seniority or last-in first-out system insisted upon by the United Federation of Teachers which was spearheaded by teacher union godfather Albert Shanker at the time.
In the 1990s, I was teaching again in Los Angeles at a Westside middle school with a mostly inner-city student body. A majority of the teachers were good people and hard workers, but there were a few who weren’t. Bill, a PE teacher, had an interesting ritual between classes. He would go to his car, parked on campus, and open his trunk where he kept a large cache of hooch. By the end of the day – every day – he was obviously pickled. But he knew that no matter how slurred his speech may have been, getting plastered daily was an activity he could indulge in without professional consequence.
Harold was a nice old gentleman and a lawyer with a J.D. Unfortunately, whatever skills he may have possessed in the courtroom did him no good in the classroom, which often resembled a British soccer riot – pure mayhem. As testing coordinator, I had occasion to visit his class several times and invariably regretted not wearing a flak jacket. To maintain order, he resorted to showing film strips, pretty much daily. The kids didn’t learn much, but at least the janitors had less to clean up at the end of the day.
Leah, an English teacher, was a mean one; she rarely smiled and was antagonistic to a fault. During lunch period on a warm late spring day, she decided she was too pale and headed out to the athletic field to catch some rays. She proceeded to lie on her stomach, take off her blouse and unstrap her bra. (Ladies, you know how unsightly those tan lines can be!) As Leah’s glamor gambit was seen by kids, a few teachers and the plant manager, denial was not an option. However, she did not lose her job. Instead, she was transferred to a nearby elementary school which was run by a woman, known by many as “the principal from hell.” I have no idea what has become of Leah, but I’m sure she went on to infect many more kids with her bile and bad judgment.
And then there was Roy. One day, this 8th-grade English teacher allegedly touched a female student inappropriately. There were witnesses, but the student involved would not press charges so they put him into the district office for a while – the so-called “rubber room” or “teacher jail.” Since firing him was not a viable option, the powers-that-be decided to transfer him to another school, where he was accused of fondling another student. So he was sent back to the district office, where he whittled away his paid vacation ogling porn. Busted, he was transferred to yet another school, where he got caught sharing his smut with some of his female students. He was then returned to the district office, where the last I heard, he was waiting for his next assignment, courtesy of his union lawyer.
My principal at the time explained that because the collectively bargained dismissal statutes are so laborious that many administrators don’t even bother trying to navigate the 10-step process that must be taken before a dismissal is finalized. The process is also very expensive.
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