HEROES IN EDUCATION
Ex-East Maine Special Ed Worker Rehired In Des Plaines
By TRACY YOSHIDA, Journal Reporter
Although she is no longer working in East Maine School Dist. 63, Cheryl Mix continues to be actively involved in special education. Mix was rehired by Des Plaines School Dist. 62 as a homebound tutor for a special needs student. Mix was employed by Dist 62 prior to Dist. 63 claiming she was physically abusive to children, and she was not working at Dist. 62 during that time. According to the director of special education at Dist. 62, Tavia Floyd, the "complaints were unfounded" so they rehired her. Mix has also been hired by Illinois State University as a supervisor of student teachers and students planning to go into special education. Illinois State University is where she received her undergraduate and masters degrees and Mix is pleased to work for the university. In her new position, she will evaluate the student teachers and give them suggestions and she will also directly teach some students."I can give them a personal experience," said Mix, about doing what's "legally, morally and ethically right.""They know about everything that has happened with Dist. 63 and they strongly support me," said Mix, about Illinois State University. She said they are happy that she stood up for the rights of special education children, despite the consequences. Having no regrets, Mix said she would do it all over again in order to stand up for children's rights. Mix is also the new vice president of the support group Parent-2-Parent for Students that stood by her through the tough times. She is a teacher representative for Parent Alliance for Compliance in special Education (PACE) and an advocate for special education students.
It is not often when NAPTA comes across districts that operate with integrity and in the best interests of children, but when we do, we intend to celebrate them with equal energy in hopes that more and more administrators can stand in their integrity. We are aware that the food chain of abuse starts with self serving administrators, who abuse right thinking administrators, forcing them to follow suit. Our hope is that as more and more administrators gain strength from knowing the playing field is changing, we will find more and more districts like District 62 Desplaines.
More importantly, teachers have been too afraid to speak against former districts and often they secure new jobs attempting to hide their pasts. The fear of being blackballed is real. However, hiding ones past presents new issues. This often backfires since even if the new district is ethical, they interpret this lack of candor coming from the teacher as a flaw in her character, rather than coming from fear. Teachers need to feel safe standing up for children's rights, telling the truth, and establishing a record of who they are. They need to approach new jobs standing in their power so that the new job is an opportunity to move beyond the abuse.
In addition, this history of hiding conflict has resulted in teachers believing they have to remain silent or there is no possible future. As teachers read about Mix, more and more will find the courage to remain on the front of the bus as Mix did. Meanwhile, NAPTA will keep track of the "safe" districts, universities, or administrators to encourage other teachers with integrity to remain in the profession.
KUDOS TO DISTRICT 62 - TO ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY - TO CHERYL MIX - TO EVA ROBERTS - TRUE HEROES
In addition, NAPTA recognizes Eva Roberts for her continuous effort to make districts accountable. Roberts has tirelessly advocated for Mix by getting information to the media and other supporters. In this case, she is confronting the Superintendent who supported the abusive principal, Karen Beck. If every district had a parent like Roberts, in time there would be few teacher abuse stories to tell. Abuse only happens in the dark. Hopefully, parents all over will shine light on their districts and make behaving civilly and humanely easier than dealing with confrontational parents. Although, we would prefer to know that districts acted out of integrity rather than fear, NAPTA's goal is positive change regardless of how it is accomplished.
Dear Superintendent Williams:
This will be my last correspondence directly to you as a resident of the community you are hired to serve. I am writing to you regarding Principal Karen Beck of Washington School.
As the public is aware, Cheryl Mix, was alleged by Principal Beck to have had abusive behavior towards students. This accusation led to Ms. Mix losing her job despite parent pleas, which has now been found to be unfounded as Ms. Tavia Floyd of Des Plaines District 62 stated in a recent Journal and Topics article. Furthermore District 62 has rehired Ms. Mix back as a tutor for one of their special education students. It is also interesting to note that Illinois State University has hired Ms. Mix as a supervisor of their student teachers. It is my understanding that Illinois State has full and complete knowledge of the scandal surrounding Ms. Mix's dismissal and they too have come to the conclusion that all accusations are unfounded.
Let's take a good look at things:
Parents in Mix's class supported her throughout this ordeal (this would include the parents of the children supposedly abused by Ms. Mix).
Parent-2-Parent for Special Students supported Ms. Mix throughout her vocal advocation on behalf of students with special needs.
Des Plaines School District 62 has rehired Ms. Mix confirming that allegations were unfounded.
Illinois State University has hired Mix as a supervisor of their student teachers..fully knowing about the scandal revolving around her dismissal from Dist. 63.
DCFS had no record of a complaint filed against Mix. (this is according to reporters researching the story)
Parents Alliance for Compliance in special Education (PACE) has recognized Ms. Mix's courage and efforts regarding her public advocating. They just recently presented her with an award.
In February I personally heard Sen. Patrick O'Malley congratulate and applaud Ms. Mix's courage in publicly advocating on behalf of ALL special needs students. This was followed up by a call to me from Sen. O'Malley's wife also supporting the work of Ms. Mix.
I have personally taken Ms. Mix's story and supporting media articles to officials throughout the state as well as Washington, DC. Everyone presented with the details were dismayed that the parents of the supposedly abused children were not being heard. As were they supportive of Ms. Mix's courage to stay true and stand her ground.
The only people appearing not to recognize the value of such a "just" teacher seems to be East Maine School District 63 administrators, namely Principal Karen Beck. I am giving the school board members the benefit of the doubt as they received information from District 63's administration. As was the case in the past years when I, myself, presented them with information regarding the failures in the special education programs at District 63. It was there also they deferred to 63's administration. We now know for fact many of the items I brought to their attention over the course of the last 2 and a half years were in fact true. It is rather sad that it took a special education audit paid for by taxpayers before anyone listened...parents once again were being ignored and the children waited years before their silent voices were heard.
Considering ALL the facts, will you, as the superintendent, be doing a full and complete investigation on the actions of Principal Karen Beck? Our children should not have to wait for yet another tragic outcome of this administrator's behavior before action is taken.
As a parent who has dealt with the retaliation and harassment for being a vocal advocate on behalf of the students of District 63, I applaud Ms. Mix's courage and strength. She is exactly the teacher/ role model our children need.
Eva Marie Roberts
This email will be printed, signed and delivered to East Maine Dist. 63
CC:To anyone with an interest.
NAPTA would like to add that Karen Beck was not the only person who neglected to recognize the value of a just teacher like Mix. Mike Lamb, Associate General Attorney for Illinois Education Association disappointed Mix with a lack of support regarding this teacher abuse. When Mix told me she was contacting Lamb, I informed her about the dubious treatment I received from the IEA as well as from Lamb. Although the IEA agreed to represent my dismissal case, there were many questionable actions that were taken, and false statements made to me by the union. Furthermore, in spite of the unjust decision rendered by my hearing officer, Steve Rubin, Lamb decided against supporting me on an appeal, forcing me to represent myself.
Somehow the union managed to lose a case that had substantial proof against the district. The union knows that the district submitted an altered letter, the hearing officer refused to allow us to document it on the record, and they are satisfied with dumping me, indicating there is nothing they can do. What about government misconduct? What about obstruction of justice? What about testing the constitutionality of the law? They have weaseled out and all will be revealed in my upcoming book Teacher Cleansing in America.
Consequently, when Mix shared her disappointment with the IEA's lack of concern for the abuse inflicted upon her, I was not the least surprised. The IEA/NEA has proven they do not care if teachers are abused and perhaps they find it as useful to their agenda as it is to the agendas of corrupt districts.
Mix's achievement is even more significant because she not only carved a path for teachers to operate with integrity, she helped to disgrace the IEA, something that needs to be done so that they too will decide it is time to really support teachers. How could they turn her down when she needed help after being falsely accused of abuse? It is hard enough for teachers to function against corrupt districts. But when the organization pretending to represent us actually sabotages us behind our backs, we are in an untenable position. Thinking of our heroes makes this all much more bearable.
KUDOS TO JULUIS MENACKER, HEARING OFFICER WITH SCRUPLES
In Teacher Cleansing in America, you can read all about Steve Rubin, the antithesis of Juluis Menacker. Whereas Rubin's mantra was "THE ADMINISTRATORS ARE NOT ON TRIAL", Menacker felt an obligation to preserve teachers' right. We need more heroes like Menacker. Note his comments below:
However, it was clear that Smith returned Doe's hostility with equal animosity. The issue to be resolved was whether the principal's and superintendent's behavior constituted a sufficient defense to excuse Doe's insubordination and refusal to cooperate or change teachingbehaviors. The literature on teacher evaluation was unanimous in placing mutual trust and respect as a sine qua non of successful evaluation. One source stated that "to be effective during instructional improvement, supervision must promote both trust and clear communication aboutdirectional progress."
Ultimately professionalism . .. means a reconception of administration as a support function for teachers rather than a mechanism for the control of teaching.26 The evaluation should address evaluatees in a professional, considerate and courteous manner so that their self-esteem, motivation, professional reputations, performance, and attitude toward personnel evaluation are enhanced or, at least, not needlessly damaged.27The inescapable conclusion reached after this review was that district administrators had fallen far short of the recommended practice for teacherevaluation. Rather, Doe was confronted with remediation requirements (e.g., the summer reading assignment, lesson plan expansion documentation) that appeared more oriented to punishment and harassment than to remediation and professional development. Even the manner in which Smith promoted the use of the Effective Schools Format was professionally inappropriate, as it showed no consideration for the views and experienceof the teacher. The same seemed evident regarding the adamant refusal of the superintendent to consider transferring Doe to another school or assigning an alternate evaluator to her. Poor administrative judgment was also evident in requiring, or even allowing (whichever was really the case) a new principal to evaluate all teachers on her staff during her first year on the job-Balancing interests and actions of both sides to this controversy resulted in placing greater responsibility on the evaluators than the evaluatee for exhibiting professional conduct. While Doe should not be excused for her unprofessional behavior, those placed in positions of leadership, as well as responsibility for and authority over others, bear the greater obligation for proper conduct. That is why the burden of proof is placed on the district. As a result, the charges of insubordination were considered to have an adequate defense, i.e., opposition to administrators who failed to establish rapport or consider whether changes in Doe's teaching were well-advised and how they could best be accomplished
I decided that I must hold to the principle that the ends do not justify the means. In the final analysis, r decided that abuses of government power, as personified by the superintendent and principal, were a worse result than allowing Doe to be reinstated. Sanctioning the inappropriate administrative judgment and behavior would have encouraged the application of thesame, or worse, conduct applied to other teachers. I believe this would have a much more pervasive negative effect oneducational accomplishment in the district than would result from reinstating Doe. True, she had shown herself to be unwilling to consider improvement or compromise. Now she is back at work, with back pay and service credit for the time lost. I was concerned about the messages that were being sent to other staff and administrators. Yet, in the last analysis, I found that the violations of the teacher's rights, as described by statute, court decisions and professional opinion, outweighed the public interest, as there was no evidence that Doe's students were subjected to any significantly less competent instruction than was true for students taught by other teachers in the school. There was no reason to assume that incompetent teachers would now go unnoticed (including Doe. who would be required to be reevaluated in two years). However, I hope that the new principal and superintendent (the former has a new position in another district, and the latter took early retirement) will practice better leadership, supervision and administrative judgment.
Most important, administrators should have taken pains to insure that there was evidence of their continuing efforts to establish communication with Doe, and to be helpful in any way possible. Instead, the evidence indicated an attitude of returning Doe's hostility measure for measure. This is not what the Illinois teacher evaluation statute, court opinions, and the professional literature supported.
Since the "Nation at Risk" report, there has been concern for improving teacher performance. The chief mechanism for bringing this about has been increased measures to make teachers accountable. The problem is how to do this in a way that does not violate the rights of tenured teachers. Simple reliance on the standardized test results of the teacher's students is inappropriate. Clinical evaluation that engages both teacher and evaluator in the process of improvement is the preferred approach. This requires evaluators to have good skills at building trust, rapport, and communication. When such conditions obtain, the dismissal of tenured teachers with documented deficiencies can be upheld.
In addition to the heroes described above, NAPTA wants to commend Ed WIlliams at the Charlotteobserver.com, who ran an ongoing column encouraging teachers to dialogue about problems in education. He asked teachers to write in comments about problems described by a very frustrated and disillusioned teacher. By doing this, he made and shared a profound discovery. He pointed out that he received over one hundred letters, all of which had asked that he not reveal their names. He wrote the following response:
I don't know whether the danger of retribution is real. I do know, from these letters, that the fear of it is real. And I suspect that the failure of teachers to speak out in an organized way is a reason the problems get insufficient attention.
Mr. William's data driven observation that teachers fear retribution and thus neglect organizing in any constructive way, illustrates the precise reason we have come together as NAPTA. We want to shine light on this darkness, gain parent, media and citizen support, and give other teachers the courage to join us. Then reform can begin. We had to do this in a powerful way to be heard over the propaganda dispersed with large tax monies that support status quo. This had to be an effort of unity and strength so it can gain momentum and stand a chance against the Goliath forces of self interest. It had to be a call for solidarity amongst all parents, citizens and teachers, so that retribution could no longer be a choice. The truth will be heard, finally!!!
Ed Williams is editor of The Observer's editorial pages. Contact him at P.O. Box 30308, Charlotte, N.C. 28230-0308, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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