CHARTER SCHOOLS SUBJECT TO THE SAME UNSAVORY LEADERSHIP
I am a former teacher at a charter school in New York City. They say that there are six degrees of separation between people. I didn't realize how true this was until my recent, horrible experience at a charter high school. In the last two weeks of August, after enduring what we, the faculty of ILCS, assumed was behavior related to the stress of opening a new school by the school's founder and CEO, Dr. Elaine Ruiz Lopez, we were hopeful that things would smooth out, questions would be answered and we would be a part of something grand. It was not to be.
In the second week of school, the biology teacher was fired, and the remaining staff told the "reasons", which we all viewed as suspect. The very next day, the English teacher was yelled at and scolded for making copies without permission, even though she had been absent for two days prior due to illness, and wasn't aware of the new "copy policy". This policy was created for a school that had six teachers and 86 students. A dramatic day ensued and both the English teacher and the Math teacher attempted to resign, only to be forced to leave abruptly in front of the kids, threatened and taunted at the elevator by the CEO , and had the police called on them.
In 24 hours, the school had lost 3 teachers. Students would leave, more teachers and staff would leave and by February the students would have had 2 math teachers 2 Spanish teachers 2 English teachers, 3 biology teachers and an assortment of substitutes. The school itself would have also lost the Director of Finance and Operations, and the Business Manager. In the midst of the chaos, basic things like access to student IEPs would be denied. Supplies as basic as dictionaries would be denied, and the remaining "veteran" teachers would be subject to harsh criticism, harassment, hyper vigilance and intimidation. The students were also intimidated and harassed. The academic calendar would be delivered on November 8th. To all questions or requests Dr. Lopez stated "This is how it is when you are building a plane while flying it".
Attached to this email are the two documents that book end my experience at a new charter high school in New York City, the International Leadership Charter School. The first one (Letter to Lisa Long) is the original letter of complaint that led to the investigation by the New York State Department of Education and VESID Special Education Quality Assurance. The second is the letter of grievance I recently wrote to the Board of Trustees of the International Leadership Charter School.
Back to the six degrees of separation, my former boss had introduced the entire faculty to Mr. Eddie Calderon Melendez of Williamsburg charter school. He was described as a founding board member and his school as a "sister" school. It was only during my research into whistleblowing, and retaliation against teachers in charter schools that I made the connection between Mr. Eddie Calderon Melendez and Nichole Byrne Lau, who was terminated for showing the salary schedule to her colleagues at Williamsburg Charter High School in Brooklyn.
Since my termination, I received a letter from the New York State Dept of Education VESID, (attached) stating that all 5 of the issues regarding Special Education, Bilingual Education, ESL and Discipline policies had been substantiated. One of the teachers, who attempted to give notice and instead was kicked out in a dramatic and humiliating manner, recently won her case in small claims court. Another teacher's case is coming up.
Aixa B. Rodriguez, Abused Charter School Teacher
ALTHOUGH IT IS HARD TO SAY A TEACHER WHO WENT THROUGH ALL THIS WAS LUCKY, RELATIVE TO MOST ABUSED TEACHERS SHE WAS BECAUSE THE PRESS EXPOSED THE TRUTH, WHICH RESULTED IN THE PRINCIPAL LEAVING. HOWEVER, THIS DID NOT HAPPEN BEFORE SHE LOST HER POSITION AS WELL AS HER FAITH IN EDUCATION. CHECK OUT THIS SUMMARY OF THE ARTICLE THAT SAVED THESE CHILDREN.
“Charter Kids Out of ‘Hell:’ 'Nutball' Boss Quits,’” posted by the New York Post on line on August 26, 2007, by Angela Montefinise was an article about Rodriquez' charter school that described how an aggressive press can save our children and teachers. It said: “Students and teachers at a fledgling charter school in The Bronx are celebrating a new school year - and era - in the wake of the resignation of an embattled principal who allegedly wreaked havoc on education and morale.” A student was quoted as saying: "’I feel great . . . We weren't learning anything. And she always tried to control everything in the school. She was terrible to the students.’" The article continued: “Of eight teachers on the payroll when the school opened, four claimed they were wrongfully fired. The rest walked out one day to protest what they called ‘horrible treatment’ that included harassment, late pay and problems with health benefits. …’She [principal] was a total nutball,’ said former Spanish teacher Aixa Rodriguez, who believes she was fired for criticizing Lopez's ‘insane’ tactics. … ‘I'm glad she's gone, but I think the damage has been done,’ she said. ‘The teachers who are left aren't going back to teaching. She ruined teaching for us. It was actually horrible. And the students lost an entire year of their academic careers.’"
These documents give you an idea of the mistreatment as well as amount of work each abused teacher faces in her attempt to receive justice. They impart the loss of idealism this teacher underwent, showing that charter schools amidst White Chalk Crime are not the answer.