Former DOE Prosecutor Calls NYC Teacher Tenure Policies an Outrage

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The old adage “three strikes and your out” does not apply to Ann Legra, 44, a first-grade teacher at PS 173 in Washington Heights in New York City. Legra has been evaluated as “unsatisfactory for six consecutive years of failing her students,” argued the city during a 16-day termination hearing – and she’s still employed.

Eugene Ginsberg, the hearing officer, upheld the city’s charges of her “inability to supervise students”, lateness, absence, and poor lesson planning in the 2012-2013 school year. Ginsberg did not, however, agree with the allegation that she was a bad instructor, because he felt she had not received appropriate coaching.

Susan Edelman and Amber Jamieson of the New York Post say that in the end, Ginsberg imposed a 45-day suspension without pay. Legra will keep her $84,500-a-year salary, but will now be a part of the 1,400 member substitute teacher pool.

Last month, Gov. Cuomo called the teacher evaluation system “baloney” after discovering from the latest results that less than 1% of New York state teachers are rated as ineffective.

Yet Legra was facing charges from the DOE for the second time when she began this latest hearing last month. Legra, who started in the system as an aide 23 years ago, became a teacher in 2001, said officials. The prior settlement charged that Legra had excessive absences from 2009-2012. She was let off with a $3,500 fine. The latest hearing was an administrative trial.

Once, according to Assistant Principal Kevin Goodman, Legra’s classroom was found in “chaos”.

“Students up out of their seats, at least one was running, another was demonstrating karate moves on the closet door and the majority of the students were not involved in anything instructional — an issue that has repeatedly plagued your tenure as a classroom teacher,” he wrote at the time.

Legra was, when this visit took place, in a corner on a computer, where she could not possibly have been able to monitor her students. The teacher says she has been harassed and targeted because of her high salary, her longevity, her race, gender, national origin, and her medical disability, asthma. She has filed a lawsuit against the DOE.

When faced with the accusation that she was not monitoring her class, Legra stated that she was sharpening pencils that were too sharp in order to avoid accidents, writes Scott Shackford of Reason. He adds that she was absent 27 times and late 37 times in one school year.

This is the kind of story that has Campbell Brown, former CNN host, and her Partnership for Educational Justice filing suit to overturn the terrible tenure laws of New York. Shackford adds that 98% of PS 173′s students are minorities and 92% are Latino.

In an op ed piece for Opposing Views, Jared Keever writes that Michael Mazzariello, former chief prosecutor for the Department of Education stated:

“Six U-ratings is an outrage. It’s a black eye on the system.”

As of now, tenure for teachers is granted after three years. Cuomo would like to see teachers have five consecutive years of reviews with “effective” or “highly effective” ratings before tenure is granted. Along with that, he would like to have the termination process streamlined and the requirement for administrators to first attempt to rehabilitate ineffective teachers before they are terminated be removed.