The jury at the trial in Federal Court saw, I guess, Francesco's very bad performance on the stand (in my opinion) and that he was a disruptive employee who did not have protected speech.
|Victor Jordan, Lydia Howrilka, Lucio Celli, Francesco Portelos, Jonathan Hinesley, Al Leon, unknown|
Francesco Portelos: "A Troublemaking, Combative, and Disgruntled Employee", DOE Dismissed as Defendant
OP-ED: Why Cyberstalker Francesco Portelos and His Bully Mob, UFT Solidarity, Failed
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Jury rules against 'rubber room' teacher in suit vs. principal
'Rubber room' teacher vows an appeal after 'disappointing' jury verdict
Even though a seven-member jury ruled against "rubber room" teacher Francesco Portelos, the former tech teacher at I.S. 49 is confident his attorneys will file an appeal.
"My concern as a public school parent is that this decision will prevent teachers from speaking up because there's nothing to protect them," Portelos said outside Brooklyn Federal Court Tuesday afternoon. "I hope this doesn't bring a chilling effect to potential whistleblowers. We just have to be smarter about the way we expose the wrongdoing."
Portelos, a former tech teacher at Dreyfus Intermediate School (I.S. 49) in Stapleton, was suing then-Principal Linda Hill and then-Superintendent Erminia Claudio, claiming he was retaliated against for exposing Hill's overtime abuses. Hill was found responsible for the double-dipping by billing for simultaneous after- school programs, and paid an $801 fine.
But after sitting through a six-day trial and deliberating for more than four hours, the jury sided with the former administrators over the whistleblowing teacher.
When the judge asked the foreman if the panel believed the defendants retaliated against the plaintiff, he said, "No."
A quiet hush went over the courtroom, and the group of approximately 10 teachers who attended the trial regularly were stunned and speechless.
"What a shame," one said, leaving the courtroom.
"What happened?" another wondered.
Portelos, who exposed Hill's double-dipping practices through an anonymous FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request to obtain Hill's timecards in January 2012, believes the jury was handcuffed by the limited evidence they were allowed to consider.
During the deliberations, the jury had a question about the timeline, and specifically asked the judge to provide the testimony about when Portleos made the timecards complaint. According to the testimony given to the panel, it was March 2012.
"They were pigeon-holed us as to what we can bring in front of them," said Portelos, who is still a full-time teacher that rotates around various Staten Island schools. "We were more credible. The evidence presented was not accurate."
Portelos, a Rosebank resident, feels the jury should've been able to hear about the FOIL request and his complaint about how the principal mishandled a $7 million budget in December, 2011.
"I'm disappointed," he said. "Despite the decision, there is little regret."
Portelos said the jury foreman stopped to talk to him on his way out of the parking garage. The foreman told him the panel came in Tuesday morning ready to rule in his favor, but the court timeline and evidence forced them to rule against him, Portleos said.
"It gives me a little bit of closure," he said.
Two jurors, including the foreman, declined to comment after the proceeding.
In April 2012, Portelos was removed from I.S. 49 and reassigned to a building in Far Rockaway, Queens, where he worked in a storage room -- the rubber room -- in a basement that had two windows. There, he started a blog -- protectportelos -- where he documented his experience of doing absolutely nothing for one year while collecting his hefty teaching salary.
The move garnered media attention, and eventually Portelos was facing 38 termination charges from the DOE. But an arbitrator dismissed all but 11 of the charges, fined him $10,000 and ordered that he return to a classroom.