New York Daily news reports that teachers identified during Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s review of employee records cannot actually be fired by state law as independent arbitrators had already ruled the offensives did not warrant dismissal.
“If I had my way, these teachers would no longer be in the classroom,” said Walcott, who added that “common-sense reforms” would grant him the power to fire instructors who misbehave.
Of the 16 city teacher singled out for exclusion because of ‘pervy’ classroom behavior, 14 are still in classrooms with only two moved to non-classroom duties. All are still drawing full pay and benefits. The cost to the city is significant as the teachers, with experience ranging between 8 and 30 years, earn between $70,000 and $100,000 a year.
The actions of one of them — William Scharbach of Public School 299 in Queens, who allegedly rubbed male students and lifted them by their collars — “at best, give the appearance of impropriety, and at worst, suggest pedophilia,” wrote arbitrator Paul Zonderman.
The same could be said for many of the accused instructors, who were brought before independent arbitrators to decide their punishments.
Education Action Group writing on breitbart.com provides some of the more disturbing examples including those Norman Seigel who rubbed his genitals against a female student’s leg but received a mere 45 day suspension despite the arbitrator finding that the allegation was ‘likely true’ and Seigel having been the subject of similar complaints before .
Gym and health teacher Willie Laraque was charged with bending a male student over a desk, leaning in to him and saying, “I’ll show you what is gay.”
The group responsible for protecting the jobs of the teachers concerned is the United Federation of Teachers who appealed the original dismissals.
Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said education officials could have taken additional steps to fire the teachers singled out by Walcott.
“If the Department of Education believes that the hearing officer has made an egregious error, it can appeal the arbitration decision to the state courts,” said Mulgrew.
There is concern that the arbitrators are biased because they are hired by joint agreement of the Education Department and the UFT — and if they find against the union they may find themselves quickly out of the lucrative work. To counter this perceived bias there are calls for Governor Cuomo to change the system so that teachers’ appeals are heard by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, which would have no such bias against making the rulings needed to protect children.
That’s a good start, but education reformers are increasingly demanding changes to teacher tenure, citing that district officials shouldn’t have to spend a small fortune in legal fees every time they attempt to remove an offending educator from the classroom.