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Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Ever Happened to Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

By: Guillermina Rodriguez

I began working for the Board of Education 17 years ago. I came from Mexico with two daughters, 12 and 2. I struggled to be accepted in the universities because I was a temporary legal resident.

It took me seven years to complete my bachelors degree and certification to work as a bilingual teacher. Now I am a tenured, highly qualified teacher with an 03 regular certificate, K-9 bilingual, and Language Arts Jr. High endorsements.

I transferred in August 29, 2007 to a school because the principal offered me The Bilingual Lead Teacher position. I accepted. The principal gave me a myriad of duties to do. Plus, she asked me to take charge of the School Based Problem Solving Program, Teach ESL, and take the half position of Literacy Coach. In September of 2007, the principal reprimanded me in front of another young teacher, and took the Bilingual Lead Teacher position out of my hands. Since then, the principal started asking me to leave the school. She sent me to Human Resources to find another school. She sent me to interviews at other schools. She also sent an e-mail to the university where I am studying to get the 75 to discredit me. She refused to sign for my practicum and I dropped it without any refund.

The principal has changed me to five different positions. September 28, she assigned me to teach a self-contained upper grades special education classroom with 18 students in all categories (I do not have a Sped certificate). I filed a grievance, and she changed me to teach writing from 5th-8th. The principal gave me only four prep times, while other teachers have up to 11 prep times.

Before the principal changed me, she gathered other teachers, and in front of them, humiliated me by saying that she expected more from me. As a tenured teacher, working for almost twenty years, I was supposed to pick up many techniques to work with special education students, and that I should be a master to work with these students.

She gave me a schedule with my new assignment, but then she orally directed me to change it at the very last moment almost everyday. Then she gave me a cautionary letter for insubordination stating that I changed the schedule. The Principal sent me another memo because she said the discipline in my classroom was terrible (it is a school-wide problem), and before that, she blamed me for the discipline because I wrote anecdotal records. She stated that "I was the only one writing anecdotal records, "so I was causing the student's misbehavior.” Last Thursday, at the end of the day, I tried to send a report of a student who misbehaved. The student said I smacked him (not true). The student remained in the classroom with the homeroom teacher and another student. I didn't know what happened after that because I left for my outside duty.

When I returned from my outside duty, I went to a room where I hang up my coat and I store my wheel cart. I was picking up three discipline reports when security and a clerk came to tell me that the principal said I had to leave the building immediately. I tried to talk to the principal, but she refused to talk to me. I was in the parking lot trying to contact the Union when security came again and told me that the principal said I cannot be in the parking lot.

Next thing I knew from the Union that afternoon was that a teacher was accusing me of grabbing and slapping the student, and that they had pictures of the student with marks of "my hands" on his face and arm. I am in shock. I can not believe that this is happening to me...but it is.

I am 55, single, and I have been working as a teacher for 34 years. I planned to retire in three years and go back to my country. I have a college daughter, another single mother daughter with two little boys, and an 85 years old father that I support. Since September, I have lost 15 pounds, I cannot sleep well, and I worked three extra hours daily and all the weekends to have my work impeccable so the principal cannot find excuses to fire me. I stopped enjoying my family, I could not do anything for Thanksgiving because I was working doing lesson plans and materials. I always knew that our lives as teachers were on the hands of a fool who, with a lie, could ruin our careers, but I never thought that a principal would do something abominable like this.

I am at home now, waiting for a pull out letter from the Board of Education. I was told I will get paid for Friday and Monday and wait for directives. The Union said the investigation can last months.

I do not want to go back to that school... Is there anything we can do to stop these abusive principals?

Guillermina Rodriguez

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