Looking at the end of an all-too-short teaching career.

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by isthisrob, Feb 13, 2010.

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  1. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    Feb 13, 2010

    This week I was informed by mail from the law firm that represents the charter school I worked at for two months that my teaching license is going to be suspended for one year because I left before my 60-day waiting period was up. The hearing is probably going to be in a few weeks.

    I started working at the school in early November. In late December, I informed the administration that I was no longer interested in working for them. The school had misrepresented themselves as a college prep school when in fact most of the students that were in the school were 2-3 years behind. It's a non-union school with a hellacious workload for the teachers and most of the teachers were miserable. At the end of the previous school year, 18 out of 25-30 staff members were let go, so the school was basically starting over. Not to mention that it created a culture of fear and intimidation. The students were simply not ready for school. 50% of the seniors had not passed the state-mandated exam for graduation (this is New Jersey). The school uses data-driven instruction, which means that all the students take standardized tests three times a year and the results from these tests are used to drive instruction. If the students do not demonstrate ability with topics you have already taught, you have to go back and teach them again.

    The juniors are taking the state exams for the first time in March. 70% of them did not pass the last mock math exam in January. I was teaching an Algebra II honors course with 10 students. 5 of them did not demonstrate proficiency on the exam. Had I stayed, I would have had to abandon the Algebra II curriculum in order to go back over topics they should have learned before they got to me. I have an e-mail saved from the math department chair stating that these juniors did not receive instruction in 5 chapters of Algebra I and two chapters of Geometry and could you make sure that you cover them in addition to the Algebra II curriculum before the state exam?

    The previous teacher was fired the Friday before I was interviewed. I was interviewed on a Monday and was offered the job the same day. I started on Wednesday. I knew I shouldn't have taken the job, but I was desperate. I just had a bad feeling about the place.

    Anyway, back to the resignation. When I returned from Christmas break, I asked to see a copy of my contract. The business manager came to my classroom with a blank contract and said I needed to sign it. I said I would look at it and get back to him later. He found me next period (by now, he was looking a little anxious) and I said I wouldn't sign (remember, the contract was blank - I still have it). He didn't look too happy and said if I didn't sign, I couldn't work there anymore. I said OK, tell the CEO I'll leave at the end of the day. The CEO held a math dept meeting in his office later that day regarding tutoring because of the bad math scores. He asked everyone in the dept except for me when they could teach (they were asking for M-F 3-6 pm and Sat mornings). He also saw me in the hallway later that day and didn't say anything to me. I left at the end of the day and sent him an e-mail stating I wasn't coming back again because they failed to offer me a contract in a timely manner. The next day he sent me a nasty e-mail and said I didn't care about my students and that I didn't deserve to have a teaching license.

    Last week, I received an e-mail from the business manager demanding that I pay them over $1000 because now they are claiming that they overpaid me. They aren't going to take no for an answer.

    Then the law firm. I'm about ready to give up on teaching. This is my fourth job in five years and I have had it with all the dishonesty and nastiness. I have also decided that should my license get suspended, I am considering voluntarily surrendering my teaching license, because frankly it just isn't worth the heartache anymore, and besides, no one will ever hire a teacher who's been suspended anyway, so what's the point?

    I'm 46 and I don't know what I'm going to do with the rest of my life.

    Thanks for reading this far.
     
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  3. cityfrog6

    cityfrog6 Comrade

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    Feb 13, 2010

    I'm so sorry to hear about this. I would not let them get you down. It seems they thrive on fear and intimidation both in teaching and administrative duties. (((((hugs))))
     
  4. PCdiva

    PCdiva Connoisseur

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    Thats terrible, but Im thinking that with no signed contract, they dont have a leg to stand on. Don't let them intimidate you..bc that is what it seems they are trying to do to cover their mistakes.
     
  5. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    Feb 13, 2010

    that's what I think

    but I'm afraid that the hearing board may take into consideration the abandoned students and suspend me anyway. I'm not sure if they are there to uphold the law or settle disputes.
     
  6. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    Feb 13, 2010

    I am talking to a lawyer

    so I intend on fighting back. I have friends who know people who say that no contract, no chance I get whacked, so here's hoping.
     
  7. guest_teacher

    guest_teacher Rookie

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    Feb 13, 2010

    isthisrob, I am so sorry to hear that this has happened to you. Good luck with your legal defense. Whether you decide to stay with teaching or to change professions, you are worth more than the "dishonesty and nastiness" that you have encountered. If ever you have a "bad feeling" about a job, trust your instincts!

    On a separate note, thank you for posting your story. There was a thread in the "Job Seekers" forum the other day from a new teacher who was curious about charter schools. I tried to explain that charter school teachers have fewer employment protections. Due process and just cause dismissal matter. I hope that teachers (and other working people) will continue to stand up for these hard-won rights. Teaching is a human field, a "grey area", as it were, and black-and-white policies like at-will employment aren't appropriate for it.
     
  8. wrice

    wrice Habitué

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    Feb 13, 2010

    Don't give up! Be determined! You earned licensure. Don't let them take it away because your employers were caught in their own lies!

    If you don't fight tooth and nail now, you'll regret it later.
     
  9. timsterino

    timsterino Comrade

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    Feb 13, 2010

    I am very sorry to hear about your troubles. This is one of the reasons why I would never work for a charter, private or religious school. They are non-union and can do whatever shady thing they want to you and your reputation.

    Don't give up! Be strong, determined and fight! I hope everything works out for you.
     
  10. timsterino

    timsterino Comrade

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    Exactly. Well said.
     
  11. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Feb 14, 2010

    When such places hire you they are soooo happy to welcome you. But, when things start going downhill, it can get really nasty. Sorry that this happened to you.
     
  12. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Feb 14, 2010

    I'm no lawyer, but I can't imagine they have any legal standing for suspending your license.

    The claim that they can suspend you for leaving before the end of the 50-day waiting period is preposterous. The whole reason for a waiting period is for both employee and employer to determine if this job is a good match for the company and the worker. During the waiting period, either party can terminate the relationship without notice. Again, that's the whole purpose of the waiting period - to see if the new hire is going to be a good fit in the job.

    So that part is just BS. Secondly, you were told that you could not continue working there by the business manager unless you signed a blank contract that day. So you complied with the school policy and told him you would finish out the day.

    You did not "abandon" your students in any way. You were told you couldn't work there if you didn't sign the blank contract, so you agreed to leave. You did everything the school demanded of you. Your lawyer should be able to rip them apart and I can't imagine the state board agreeing to suspend your license over this incident.

    On a bright note, you can consider the fact that your future teaching experiences can only improve over what you've been through so far. Sounds like you've had the worst-case scenario right out of the gate, so things can only get better. ;):thumb:

    I also want to thank you for posting this story. I'm getting ready to start looking for a teaching job myself. We have a charter school here as well and I hadn't even thought about sending an application to them until the other day. I know the director personally. She is a former teacher of mine. However, I also know the reputation her charter school has among the other teachers in the public schools here. It sounds very much like the situation you describe, with students actually falling behind on state requirements and faculty committing serious violations to help the students catch up (such as reading the passage to students on the state reading exam). From what I've seen and heard of the school, I think I'll just skip them in my job search.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Feb 14, 2010

    I'm so sorry to hear of all your troubles, and wish you the best of luck.

    Hre's the only part of your story that I disagree with you on:

    A big part of teaching is reaching the kids where they're AT, not where they SHOULD be. So I actually agree with the school on this issue-- if they don't know Algebra I, it's pretty much impossible to teach them Algebra II. Now, having half a class (especially a class that small) in that position is a definite sign of a problem! And the rest of your story is a real indication of incredible issues in a poorly run school.

    Again, best wishes to you in your fight!
     
  14. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I think her issue was that she was hired to teach an honors course at a college prep school. That implies something about the quality of students you will be teaching. Instead, she had students who needed massive remediation. Sure, meet them where they are, but don't teach algebra 1 and geometry in an algebra 2 course, and then call it honors. We can get in big trouble if we deviate from the state curriculum that much. I mean, sure reviewing how to solve certain equations, or what certain formulas are, but not teaching several key concepts for the first time. Those students should not be in algebra 2 if they never finished algebra 1. Certain not in algebra 2 honors, and at a school that calls itself college prep.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Right. So the school misrepresented itself on a number of levels.

    But, that said, teachers need to reach kids where they are. If it means re-doing times tables in a Pre-calc class, then that's what we need to do. The kids can't move on until they know the basics.

    If half the kids in Algebra II can't demonstrate proficiency in Algebra I, I have no idea how you could possibly teach the syllabus.
     
  16. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Back to the point: do NOT surrender your teaching license!!! You worked to hard for it to simply give it up.

    You haven't found the right job, and you've hit a real rough patch. But you're an adult-- you know that life is sometimes like that. So fight this or don't fight it, but do NOT simply give up your licence to teach.

    Instead, focus your energies on getting this settled and on finding the right school. You know the saying about having to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Finding the right job can be like that sometimes too. Hang in there. As a math teacher, your odds are better than most. Do your homework, find the job that's right for you.
     
  17. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    Feb 14, 2010

    Thank you

    First of all, I want to thank all of you for your postings and your support.

    1. MissCeliaB, I'm a guy.

    2. I want to clear something up regarding the waiting period. In the contract, it states that if you resign, you must give 60 days' notice. I turned in my resignation on Dec. 22 stating that I would stay the 60-day period or until they found a replacement. At that time, I believed that I was under contract. I was complying to the contract in good faith. There was a whirlwind of papers to sign when I came on board, and I was sure that I had signed a contract. On January 5, I found out that wasn't the case at all. Fortunately, I kept the blank contract. On the last page, it states that if the contract is not signed by a certain date, the offer of employment is null and void. This date is blank, but the contract was offered approximately 60 days after I started and only because I asked to see it.

    3. The school maintains that since I signed an offer letter accepting the position (I did), I am obligated to follow the rules of the contract. But if this were the case, then why did I need to sign a contract?

    4. Regarding teaching Alg I/Geo in an Alg II course - I was quite prepared to do it. One of our duties was to take mock test results, analyze them and produce a document spelling out how we intended to remediate the students' knowledge. I can safely say that I was intending to spend roughly 3 out of 5 days going over old material that the students should have known already. We were encouraged by administration to basically throw the Alg II curriculum over the side and do review up until the state exam in early March. This of course, will have a ripple effect down the line should the students continue with higher math. I got the impression from talking with the honors students that they really didn't consider themselves honors students at all. As a group, they did not work particularly hard as you would expect an honors class to.

    5. No more charter/non-union schools for me! I would advise anyone considering a job at a school such as this to stay away!

    thanks
    isthisrob
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    GOOD!!! At least now you're talking about WHERE you'll teach next, not WHETHER you'll teach again!!! Hang on to that licence and start getting your resume together for the hiring season!!
     
  19. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    Definitely, fight to keep your certificate and your good name. If nothing else the poor quality of education should be brought up concerning this school. I do see that they are making an attempt to bring the students up to par but with those working conditions, it would not be a positive place for the student or teacher. If you do not receive the results that you want after your hearing, I would go to the newspapers and let them know what is happening to the children within that school.
     
  20. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Oops! That will teach me to post before fully awake!

    I really hope you don't think that I said that you wouldn't teach remedial skills in an honors class. Of course you would! I was just saying that I agreed with you that I would not expect to need to teach remedial math skills in an honors class at a college prep high school. I would if that's what I was told to teach, but I would feel mislead if I had accepted the job thinking that it was for an honors job, and then found out it was for remediation.

    I've seen this trick before. The school wants to list higher level courses and honors courses on their recruiting materials, so they have some courses that are called that, but the course titles don't reflect what is being taught in that course. Where I teach, you get in big trouble if you aren't teaching the state expectations and curriculum for the course title that you are teaching. Their diplomas could be taken away if the rigor of the courses isn't found to match what the state requires, depending on how your state does it.

    At any rate, I'm glad you're planning to stick with teaching!
     
  21. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I'm glad you are getting a lawyer. I think you are going to be okay but you need a lawyer to make sure things don't get twisted up.

    If you did sign a contract then you may very well be in violation of it but I wonder if they couldn't find the contract at that time and thus wanted you to sign another one to cover themselves. That doesn't mean they won't find it later. The way the whole thing played out though will probably be in your favor. You have a duty but so do they.

    Overall, it sounds like your lawyer has a lot to work with. Don't give up hope. We are rooting for you!
     
  22. Teaching Grace

    Teaching Grace Connoisseur

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    Yep, there's no way they can take your license away if there wasn't a contract. If they continue harassing you I might go to who ever has accredited them to complain about their tactics of "teaching" their students.
     
  23. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Yeah, they aren't too bright.
     
  24. hp123

    hp123 Comrade

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    SOrry

    This whole situation seems to be rather yuck. I'm sorry you are dealing with this.

    I work for a private school, and I have had good luck with it. They are not all bad, but when they are your protections are limited.

    There are lots of jobs in NY!
     
  25. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    I think part of it is...

    the CEO (Chief Education Officer) is just lashing out. He did not threaten legal action at the time of the incident, but filed the complaint over three weeks later. They got caught with their pants down and I imagine they aren't too happy about it.

    I don't think a contract is going to magically materialize, though I wouldn't put it past them. I'm sure they're going to lie all the way through this. The documents they submitted in the complaint were a copy of the signed offer letter, a copy of my teaching license, my initial resignation letter and my final e-mail to the CEO saying I was leaving that day because of the failure to offer a contract in a timely manner. They are claiming that the offer letter I signed is basically the same thing as signing a contract and that I have committed to work at the school for the academic year. But as I said, if that were the case, why is a contract then necessary?

    The school's charter is up for renewal this year and you can be sure that I will be contacting the state's office of charter schools.
     
  26. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I got an offer letter AND a contract prior to starting.

    I don't think they have a leg to stand on. Stand up for yourself. They just invited a boatload of trouble.
     
  27. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    The other thing I can't believe

    You would think that if they didn't have a leg to stand on, why would their lawyers allow them to proceed with this? Unless they thought they could win.
     
  28. hp123

    hp123 Comrade

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    The lawyers are thinking "money", period.
     
  29. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Who knows what details they have told them (or left out). If you went to a lawyer and said, I have a teacher who quit too early then that lawyer is going to proceed with that information. Your lawyer would have to counteract with what you've said. Have you talked to a lawyer yet? What is your lawyer's take? That's the best place to start. Your lawyer would have the best idea of what your chances are.
     
  30. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    I have spoken to a lawyer and am waiting to see if he will take the case. The issue is that his firm does a lot of business with school boards and going after a charter school could represent a conflict of interest for the firm.

    A friend also let me know of a law firm who deals with teachers and unions, so I have a backup plan in place.
     
  31. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    No wonder you are on pins and needles. You are just wanting, at this point, to hear if you have a good case or not and first you have to find a lawyer who can take you.
     
  32. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    On an emotional level, after this is all over, take a little break for yourself. Even if that means grabbing a part time job or tutoring or something-take a short break from teaching while you really heal from this. I had a very bad experience a few years ago, and I jumped right from it into another bad situation, simply because I was desperate to teach. I never really examined what my what needs were, what kind of school would be a good fit, etc. I did that between this last job and now, and it's made all the difference. I took my current job not out of desperation, but after many observations of the classrooms, spending huge amounts of time with the staff, etc. I'm still sure there will be moments of frustration, but at least I'm pretty confident of what I'm walking into.

    There is always hope! This quote kind of sums of what I've learned about teaching experiences: Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. ~James Thurber. Good luck and keep us posted! We're here for you!
     
  33. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Wow, rob. Know that this is NOT standard practice in NJ. Unfortunately, charter schools are 'hit or miss'. Many are mismanaged, suffering financially and don't serve their students well.

    Do you have representation? You might want to contact the NJEA- even though you were not a union member, they may be able to help you in terms of finding some affordable help with this stressful situation.
     
  34. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    It sounds like you've gotten a lot of good advice so far, ITR. I misunderstood the part about the 60 days, but I still say it is utter BS. If your letter of intent was the same as a contract, then the business manager had no reason trying to force you to sign a contract. Even if the letter counted as a contract, I would say the business manager voided the intent of the letter when he said you could not continue working there unless you signed the blank contract.

    So, obviously, he did not consider the letter of intent to be the same as a contract and you were told - in effect - your employment would be terminated if you did not sign the contract. The bottom line is the business manager tried to intimidate you, but ending up painting the school into a corner instead.

    I was fired unjustly from a job several years ago. When I was told by the CEO that I was being terminated, he told me they would pay me two-weeks severence. I responded by saying that, as a manager, I would be required to give 4 weeks notice if I left on my own, so I felt the company should be held to the same standard. He agreed because we both knew the termination was on shaky ground to begin with and he didn't want me going to the labor board.

    I'm sorry you've had such a bad experience, but it sounds like the school officials have given you more than enough to use against them and make them back off their threats against you.
     
  35. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Feb 14, 2010

    If you're still having lawyer issues, look for a good labor attorney. I'm not sure where you are in New Jersey but there are some amazing ones in Philly. Hang in there and fight for your certificate.
     
  36. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Very often, that first letter from a lawyer is the threatening one. It's the one where they hope that the recipient will get intimidated and back down. In this case, I'm thinking they are desperate for a teacher--otherwise, what is the point of the supposed lawsuit?

    I've contacted a lawyer before with the exact same expectation in mind. It's pretty standard to send out the intimidation letter first in hopes that the person/company will back off. It worked both times for me. (Mine were to an insurance company that wouldn't pay for something, and to a doctor's office that was overcharging quite a bit and wanted me to make up the difference between insurance and their cost.)
     
  37. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    My experience was similar to SBE's, except I was the recipient. When my ex decided she wanted to separate, I received a very nasty and threatening letter from her lawyer promising all manner of dire consequences if I didn't sign the enclosed "agreement" he and my ex had drafted. MY lawyer went a reply that basically called their bluff and made a few threats of our own if they didn't back off. They retracted the "agreement" and the threatening letter.

    Once your lawyer sends a reply to the school calling them on their BS, you should see a similar response.
     
  38. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    One would hope!

    Thanks to everyone for their perspectives and support - I'm starting to feel better about it.
     
  39. shikshak

    shikshak Rookie

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    In your place I would fight. Sue them. Get a lawyer.
    But you must according to your personality. you have nothing to lose. But only gain. If you are going to turn in your credential then you might as well fight the gross injustice. I agree it is not worth becoming a teacher anymore. Even in public schools it is hard for new teachers too.
    Good luck





     
  40. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    I am so sorry to hear of this crazy situation. I agree with the others- do NOT surrender your teaching license. And like czacza said, this is not standard practice in NJ. :hugs: I hope you see an end to this very soon...and in a favorable way, too!
     
  41. isthisrob

    isthisrob Rookie

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    I have found an attorney and we meet on Monday (I'm out of town right now).

    isthisrob
     
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