TEACHERS UNION Exposed!
How the Idaho and National Education Associations behave when you need them most: A true horror story from elementary school teacher, Daniel Geery.
AWARD WINNING TEACHER FIRED FOR BLACK TOP SMUDGES ON CLASSROOM BALLS!!!
My name is Daniel Geery, and I have a burden I’d like to get off my chest. In doing this, my hope is that the burden will land where it belongs, and ultimately cause reflection and change on behalf of those who rightly should bear the burden. I’ll give you the executive summary because, if you’re like me, teaching keeps you incredibly busy and your time is extremely valuable. Additionally, the entire story involves over 1,000 legal documents, that I eventually filed with the Idaho State and Federal Courts.
In a nutshell, I was by all a accounts a qualified third grade teacher, in Shelley, Idaho, where I built a home and lived with my wife and two boys. I worked successfully in this position for eight years. Many parents requested that their child be placed in my class (one of eight third grade classes), because they had heard about the science and other interesting activities we did routinely. I was a runner-up for Idaho State Teacher of the Year in 1988-9, and received a $1,000 cash award from U.S. West for my work on a science video for the classroom. At various times, I was also a local association president, vice-president, newsletter editor, building representative (for several years), lobbyist, and frequent writer of letters to the local newspaper. I think it is fair to say that I was the most avid supporter of the National and Idaho Education Associations in my district.
It was following extended negotiations of our Master Agreement, in 1989, that the Shelley School District hired a new superintendent, Val Edrington--an individual well-known in Utah for his militaristic approach to things. Mr. Edrington was not pleased with my active role in the IEA and NEA, and it was shortly after his arrival that I was placed on probation. This action was based on a long list of nonsensical allegations--claims which, even if true, should never have been a basis for probation. The list included such allegations as “dominating grade level meetings,” being absent when I was present, getting “blacktop smudges on PE balls,” having inadequate lesson plans (though for seven years the previous administration commended my teaching and my lesson plans), and for the content of a letter that was never published, wherein I dared to question the new superintendent’s questionable history and his activities in our district. Specifically, I had composed a draft of a letter about the shenanigans of the superintendent, took it to a local paper to see what one of the reporter's thought might need to be changed for it to be published. He asked to keep a copy, which I agreed to, and the next thing I knew the district lawyer had it and told me at a pre-Christmas pow-wow that I was in violation of a probation, for which there never had been a hearing. (Is it any wonder that teacher abuse abounds when the media, which is supposed to check those in power, forgets its role in maintaining a democracy? And our school districts use tax payers' funds to muscle teachers who dare try to hold our schools accountable? Not to us at NAPTA. And to think they concocted this teacher cleansing at Christmas time with the spirit of Scrooge serving as their model. How much more sinister do these administrators need to be before the public catches on?)
When to my horror, a termination hearing was actually scheduled in May, 1991, I asked the Idaho Education Association Regional Representative, Larry Caldwell, and the then IEA Executive Director, Chuck Lentz, to send a lawyer to assist me. “We can’t,” they claimed--such an action, they said, would be “too costly.” A kangaroo court proceeding ensued, and even though no record was made that was suitable for review, I was fired, with no income and no recourse.
It is difficult to convey in words how demoralizing and depressing this situation was. In the small Mormon community where I lived, my social support evaporated. The mere firing of me as an educator meant to the people in this community that I must have done something wrong, something horribly wrong, to be terminated from a tenured teaching position (several of my peers, aware of what was going on, were deeply concerned, but were at a loss as to what to do).
I and some of my colleagues pleaded with the Idaho Education Association again to come to my rescue. They reiterated that such action would be “too costly.” I appealed the IEA’s decision to the National Education Association, but was denied assistance at that level too. The NEA alleged that the IEA had “correctly followed its policy” (though to this day, I have been unable to find out what that policy is). The fact that I had been one of the association’s most ardent supporters, had lobbied more times than I can remember for the IEA (making the five hour drive to Boise year after year, often several times a year, in addition to running around my own district encouraging teachers to join), and had a perfect teaching record (which included writing several articles for Learning Magazine) just didn’t seem to matter. The IEA and the NEA refused to provide legal help for me.
I filed a lawsuit on my own, after extensive research on how to initiate such an action. I filed in both state and federal court, as there was no doubt I had valid causes of action in each area. I filed for unemployment benefits with the Idaho State Department of Employment. I went to the press for help. I went to the Governor of Idaho, Cecil Andrus (who billed himself as being “the education governor”). To make a very, very long story short, and condensing eight years of unimaginable paper shuffling and personal suffering into a phrase, nothing I did worked.
The local press would not cover the story, perhaps because it employed the same law firm, Holden, Kidwell, Hahn and Crapo, as did the Shelley School District. Governor Andrus clearly indicated that he would do nothing. The courts, both state and federal, sent me around and around in what I came to realize were infinite loops of futility, specifically designed to wear the little guy out. Meanwhile, I witnessed large firms, such as Quane, Smith, Howard and Hull (with close ties to the state), win their case time after time, even with no evidence whatever to support their positions.
The Idaho Department of Employment did find in my favor, but that ruling was overturned after the district’s powerful law firm made illegal back door phone calls to get the decision overturned. My later appeal to the Idaho Industrial Commission (an appeal that was itself was a huge procedural battle) eventually resulted in unemployment benefits for about a year. The Idaho Industrial Commission examined the evidence, which included two days of testimony under oath by the administration that had fired me. The Industrial Commission determined that there was not one shred of evidence to support my termination. They found that I was an effective spokesperson for the teachers and children, and an advocate for positive change. It seemed obvious enough that the administration wanted me out because I asked too many questions and challenged its position on the health and safety of students, along with its abusive treatment of teachers in the district.
But the Idaho judges refused to examine the findings of the Industrial Commission, or the evidence the administration and I had presented under oath. There was just no way I could be heard in Idaho. The internet might have changed this, but it was not then the incredible vehicle that it is today.
Lawyers for the district requested delays and extensions in state and federal court. They protested that a record of the termination hearing (a record the district was responsible for making) was not available. Month after month, they provided excuses or requested postponements. The months became a year and then two years. I watched without recourse as my career, reputation, and life disappeared before my eyes. I was forced to withdraw my retirement money so my family could survive, and thus I will not be able to retire even when I’m 65 (I am presently 53).
I appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after five years, when the Idaho Federal Court finally issued an appealable order, but that court did nothing for several more years.
It was while my case was on appeal before the Ninth Circuit, that through a stroke of fate and the understanding of fellow educators, I stumbled on a job as third grade teacher in Salt Lake City, in the summer of 1996. (Some of the teachers who interviewed me had been through their own share of difficulties with wayward administrations). I rejoined the National Education Association, this time through the Utah Education Association. Then, in 1997, as a bona fide association member once again, I wrote to NEA President Bob Chase, pleading directly to him for help.
I asked President Chase if he would please review my case in its entirety and come down on the right side of the fence, with the NEA helping me in court rather than being sued by me. This alone would have prevented me from losing everything in the bankruptcy (which soon destroyed my credit, making it so I couldn’t even get a debit card), and almost certainly would have resulted in a jury trial, which by any reasonable standard of fairness, I should have been entitled to.
The NEA President refused to help (indeed, he did not even personally respond), and I was left with nothing but eight years of wasted time--yet all I had ever done was behave in a professional, responsible manner, trying to make positive changes through appropriate channels, whilst maintaining a deep, abiding faith in the NEA.
Finally, after I was forced to file bankruptcy, the Chapter 7 Trustee “settled” my lawsuit for a grand total of $3,000 from the parties I was suing (most or all of which went to her own law firm). The parties I was suing included the Shelley School District, the Idaho Education Association, the Idaho Professional Standards Commission Administrator, Michael Friend, the school district lawyer, Fred Hahn, and the school administrators, Michael Call and Val Edrington, who were instrumental in taking steps which led to my termination. Thus I had nothing but a wasted eight years of my life to show, and no clearing of my reputation as a professional educator.
In addition, our home (a solar home I built with the help of family and friends) was destroyed by arson on September 15, 1999, after my family and I had temporarily moved away in search of income. The local detectives who supposedly investigated the fire refused to release their report to me, even after my making several attempts to obtain the report; nor did they follow up on several of the leads I had which probably would have led to the culprit.
My letter to President Chase, along with his response and my final plea for help, can be found below. Won’t you please take a few minutes to read these letters and discover for yourself how the NEA behaves when the chips are down and a member’s professional and personal life are on the line? After all, it may one day be your job on the line, and you may as well know in advance the true colors of the National Education Association.
I have now quit the NEA and strongly encourage you to consider doing the same. You’ll save several hundred dollars a year and, as near as I can tell, will have lost nothing. The NEA and its state affiliates are obligated by law to assist non-members as well as members, although this a responsibility they are not likely to tell you about. To those teachers who once joined the NEA because I personally lobbied them and advised them of the legal assistance that would be provided when push came to shove, I can only say I was very wrong and I am truly sorry.
August 1997, letter from Daniel Geery to NEA President Chase, asking for help
Dear NEA President Chase,’s conscience. I applaud your message and offer a place for you to put your words to action: Help resolve my case and thereby demonstrate your sincerity.
I read of your address to the NEA, calling for new unionism and leadership, and expressing the need for teachers to be a thorn in America
Seven years ago I was an educator with an exemplary record in Shelley, Idaho. I did a superb job in the classroom, based on all reports. I represented children and my peers and advocated for change. I was a conscience for a community and a leader in the teachers’ association. As a result of these efforts I lost my job as tenured third grade teacher, based on a long list of unfounded allegations, such as “dominating grade level meetings,” being absent when I was present, and getting “blacktop smudges on PE balls.”
The state arm of the NEA, the Idaho Education Association, refused to so much as send an attorney to my kangaroo court termination hearing, due to “an economic decision”--even though I actively recruited new members over the years, promising them, as I was assured by the NEA and the IEA, legal assistance if situations like mine arose.
I urge you to show leadership by helping resolve this case. I have been defending my career and reputation for seven years now, in proceedings that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals still appears afraid to examine, apparently due to political implications and the court’s notorious attitude that it is above the law. To this date, I have yet to obtain a judicial review of my so-called termination hearing!
The Idaho Education Association, as part of the NEA, refused to help even at my unemployment proceedings, so that I might collect unemployment income for a short time. Yet the Idaho Industrial Commission eventually ruled that there was no basis whatever for my termination, and that the administrators involved were incompetent. Subsistence benefits issued, along with a 42 page report that completely vindicated me. Yet the NEA and IEA continue to look the other way and refuse to deal with this matter. This is 100% at odds with your message, and intolerable to me as a professional educator.
You want leadership? Please give us an example now. Examine this highly symbolic case. If leaders such as myself can be booted from the ranks and then kicked in the teeth by association bureaucrats, real leadership will never be more than a pipe dream. If the NEA is going to continue whitewashing cases like this, as it has done to date, you may as well hang up your hat, say to hell with the kids, and let it be said that at least you are an honest loser.
On the other hand, your taking charge and helping bring resolution to this ongoing nightmare will add credibility to your words and set a proper example for others to rely on, confident in the knowledge that they will not have careers destroyed as a result of trying to advance education in our country.
Thank you for your interest.
September 12, 1997
NEA President Bob Chase responds via Ms. Hardenstein
Dear Mr. Geery,
I am writing in response to your letter to National Education Association (NEA) President Bob Chase. As the NEA staff person who works with the Idaho Education Association (IEA) legal program, your letter was referred to me for a response.
Your letter indicates that you have been involved in a termination lawsuit for the last seven years and that you requested legal assistance from the IEA, which was denied. Our files indicate that you appealed IEA’s denial to this office in early 1992. After careful consideration of the materials submitted to this office, NEA decided IEA had followed its legal program guidelines in deciding not to fund your case and did not overrule IEA’s decision.
I have been in contact with IEA staff and determined that you have currently a pending lawsuit against IEA. It is NEA’s policy not to consider requests for assistance from individuals who are suing NEA or its affiliates.
Linda L. Hardenstein
Senior Professional Associate
cc: Bob Chase
At this point, I was very much at my wit’s end, and spent countless hours on my rollerblades, with headphones cranked high. When I was finally able to sit down at the keyboard, I made my last request as a National Education Association Member. Won’t you please read my final plea to NEA President Bob Chase?
Dear National Education Association President Chase,
Thank you for your answer regarding my termination from a tenured teaching post, in spite of a perfect teaching record and continued support of the NEA, through Idaho and Utah Education Associations.
I am dismayed by your response, which notes that the “NEA decided IEA followed its legal program guidelines” in refusing to send an attorney to my termination hearing. CLEARLY, IT WAS BECAUSE OF THIS REFUSAL AND RELATED MATTERS THAT I FILED SUIT AGAINST THE IEA. For you now to proclaim it is NEA policy “not to consider requests from individuals suing NEA or its affiliates” is to add profound insult to severe injury. As a member in good standing, I had hoped I would be entitled to at least some credible reason why the NEA is unwilling or unable to look into this extraordinary situation, wherein promise after promise was broken by the Idaho Education Association.
For the NEA to go on whitewashing IEA refusal to help me at my termination hearing, and later in court, does not speak well for the “new unionism” you claim to seek. Such continued callous disregard, quite frankly, can only be seen as a disturbing continuation of the status quo, one that casts grave doubt over the sincerity of your public proclamations and willingness to asssume real leadership.
Several things have happened since my termination that the IEA may have neglected to inform you of.
The former IEA Executive Director was shipped back to Wisconsin promptly after my appeal of the IEA decision.
The principal who fabricated the case against me was “promoted” to another district, as is customary in these parts when a district wants to get rid of someone.
The superintendent involved resigned in the middle of the year when discovery pressure from my lawsuit resulted in “health problems.”
The next superintendent soon left his post, calling the district the “most belligerent in Idaho.”
The elementary school with the health and safety problems that I and my colleagues complained of was finally torn down and hauled off in dump trucks (did the IEA show you my video of that?).
The Professional Standards Commission Administrator who refused to investigate my case left his post right after my termination.
No transcript for review was made of my so-called termination hearing as required by law--a fact that has been wilfully ignored by Idaho state and federal courts, bodies well-known for religiously bending to power.
Congressman Mike Crapo’s powerful law firm lost school district clients, while the attorney therein who handled education mysteriously went into retirement.
The Idaho Industrial Commission could not find a shred of evidence for my termination, in an unchallenged decision, even after two days of testimony and venting of hot air by the administration under oath.
These incidents merely scratch the surface, but I imagine you get the picture, with which there appears to be a great deal wrong. Now all the NEA can say in effect is, “OH WELL, WE FOLLOWED OUR POLICY”??
Oh well, President Chase! I am asking for bread, not stones. A career and the life of a professional educator is involved here, not to mention all that the NEA supposedly stands for. Perpetuating the whitewash of this deplorable fiasco is not the way to bring about change in education. Such action only fosters disrespect and encourages mediocrity and worse. It is WRONG for the NEA to kick professional educators in the teeth behind closed doors, whilst continuing to holler for change in public. And after seven years of non-resolution, I must inform you I can no longer tolerate the closed door aspect of this horror story.
Is there truly some NEA policy which refuses the intelligent resolution of disagreements? Is it policy for NEA to give its blessing to local association corruption, even when the career of one of its most avid supporters has been so clearly trashed? Is it NEA policy to ignore reality through fancier paper shuffling? Is that new unionism?
President Chase: I am asking you to take charge and help bring closure to this ongoing nightmare, to add credibility to your words and set a leadership example that others can rely on. Won’t you please at least start the process by asking the Idaho Education Association to make a FULL DISCLOSURE of documents related to me? Won’t you please demonstrate that the new union, under your leadership, has the courage and determination to help those who have so faithfully supported leaders such as yourself? Won’t you please show the world that the NEA takes education and educators seriously, and has more to show for it than pompous rhetoric, pointing at the sky, or another kick in the teeth?
I thank you in advance for your time and effort.
Follow up: The NEA never responded again regarding this latter-day lynching of a professional educator. President Chase’s letter, via Ms. Hardenstein, is 100% typical of the twisted, unresponsive answers I received from the local school board, state and federal courts, the unemployment office, the Idaho Education Association, and the Idaho Professional Standards Commission, over the course of eight years.
I quit the association last year, in the summer of 1999, since it has been proven to me that there is no reason for belonging. If the NEA throws stones when you’re swinging from a rope, what is the point? Save your money, put kids first and do your best in the classroom; write a letter to the editor now and then, vote out incumbent judges whenever possible, and we’ll all be better off, particularly yourself. You may also want to put your NEA literature in the recycling bin, where it can do some good in the form of cellulose insulation.
Presently, I am busy reestablishing my reputation and striving to get my career back on track. I thank you for reading this and ask that you send it along to fellow educators, and perhaps a copy to the NEA, in the event you feel inclined to turn in your resignation. Should the NEA actually have something to say, I will certainly post whatever it is they have to say. Meanwhile, one can do little but wonder how they will treat the next plea for help.
As in most places, administrators who cause problems like these for teachers, move on to "higher callings"--because everyone is too afraid to fire them, which would be like an admission that the little guy was right all along. Mr. Call moved onward and upward, after the board asked him to leave and gave him good recommendations so he could get out of Dodge without further adieu. Now he is working his magic elsewhere: http://www.geocities.com/estacada_oregon/CEEBA.html.