Skip to content

Letter from a Denver Special Ed Teacher

July 23, 2010
by

I recently received this letter from a middle school Special Education teacher who was recently separated from Denver Public Schools. To the best of our knowledge, her non-renewal was not performance related, nor was it handled as a pure reduction in force because of the expiration of the grant that funded her position (whereby she would have been eligible for rehire at another time). She originally sent this letter to the school board and several of the people who supervise her principal, but she received no response. She passed the letter on to me because she is incredibly frustrated by the fact that she was ignored by the people who are theoretically supposed to ensure that principals are performing their duties in a professional and ethical manner. She wants the public to know about what happened to her, because she believes that is the only way to stop it from continuing. Identifiers have been removed at her request.

–Sabrina

Dear [Members of the School Board & several other central office personnel]:

I am writing to express my disappointment in the way I and my position have been handled (or mishandled) at [DPS] Middle School, and my principal’s desire to nonrenew me. I have already resigned. I would like to put this all behind me and move on, however, the tainting of my reputation is now an issue.

I was the disability access teacher. The district struggled to define the position, a new one using ARRA stimulus money. One thing they knew initially, though, is that the money was to be used exclusively for special education students.

My principal, [name removed], and my assistant principal, [name removed], have both stated on several occasions, that they really didn’t want this position. (I would say that their minds were made up in advance, and I fought this all year. I filled a position that I believe they wanted to fail.) In this building, special education is a low priority. Our special education staff members each teach one sped class, and the rest RTI. There are no inclusion teachers, except for me. All IEP’s had to be rewritten in this building to reflect no inclusion minutes.

I was continuously struggling between the district sped department and my campus.  I was told at DAT inservices, over and over, that I was not to cover classes as this would compromise the grant for the entire district.  My principal would continue having me cover classes in spite of this. As of today, May 19, 2010, I have covered 72.3 hours of classes, and have spent approximately four full weeks (meaning all day for these 4 weeks) administering CSAP and Benchmark make-up exams.  This has taken me out of the inclusion classes I’m supposed to be supporting, and has precluded me from helping kids outside of class, as well. (For covering these classes, I was only paid for 13 hours total.)

Almost every time my service log was turned in, [name removed], Sped head for middle schools, would email me, “why are you covering classes?” I would always reply, “because my principal is asking me to”, and [she] would say, “you are not to cover classes”.   I was unfairly stuck in the middle, and when [she] tried to confront my principal, [the principal] reacted with anger, saying that all of her Sped teachers should be teaching 6 classes like everyone else, etc., etc.   This level of stress, being stuck in the middle, has significantly affected my health. In fact, since April 30, when [the principal] popped a nonrenewal on me, completely unexpectedly, I have been breaking out in hives all over my body, every single morning.

I have never had hives in my life. (Quite frankly, I couldn’t believe she nonrenewed me. That’s the thanks I get for covering 72 hours worth of classes, and giving a month’s worth of make-up exams, skipping planning periods, and occasionally lunch, for that month’s worth!)

My evaluations from [another state], my previous public school experience, reflect the highest possible scores each and every time. I have bent over backwards in this current position to try to do three things: 1) Do right by the children, always my top priority, 2) please [the principal] and [the assistant principal], and 3) honor the grant ethically. Generally, 2 and 3 were at odds with each other. This is an extremely tough position to be in, and a violation of my rights as an educator. I should not be judged on my ability to straddle a fence, whereby the two sides are polarized.

This whole thing has been a professional nightmare. Unfortunately, though [the principal’s] reputation preceded her, I foolishly thought, “it can’t be that bad”. It was. I have never worked for someone so unwavering, unprofessional, and unscrupulous. I have special education children in my family, and this gross misappropriation of federal funds alarms me significantly.  ARRA stimulus monies are being judged by their effect. Money earmarked for me to make a difference was used for whatever my principal deemed fit.  Do not judge the ARRA effects in this building, as they are grossly skewed.

Having lived in DPS for four years, I am also concerned as a taxpaying citizen. In fact, I campaigned and voted for several of the current board members. The families of my autistic nephews are especially concerned with this situation.

This misuse of grant funds is ONLY ONE of many disparaging and/or incongruous situations going on at [this middle school]. I have numerous documented situations of lying, misconduct, and unprofessionalism.

I have resigned, as I do not accept an unethical tainting of my reputation. This building is a pressure chamber, being led by a controlling and incompetent leader. I have never experienced anything like it. I am [in my late 40s].

PLEASE DO NOT SHARE THIS WITH [the principal], [the assistant principal], OR CENTRAL OFFICE SPECIAL EDUCATION UNTIL I AM NO LONGER A DPS EMPLOYEE, AFTER MAY 28, 2010. I AM HONESTLY AFRAID OF MY PRINCIPAL, AS I HAVE NO IDEA OF THE VERBAL ABUSE I COULD SUFFER WERE SHE TO “GET WIND” OF THIS WHILE I STILL HAVE TO REMAIN IN HER CHARGE. She is the bully in the building.

Sincerely,

[Aggrieved Teacher]

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Nancy permalink
    September 25, 2010 11:28 am

    Wow! That is my story too, only I had a cognitive class (DPA Urban High School) The big difference is they made up a big lie and refused to show me the evidence. I was put out on administrative leave while they did “the investigation” which I understand did not produce the evidence they said they had. The problem was there were a couple of administrators who would be implicated. Once they told me it was because I failed to report (not true) then they changed it to “we think we can find someone better” . The worst thing was the union would not help me because I was a probationary employee. I tried to hire another attorney who again said he could not help me. I think a lot of this was retaliation by the HR person at HQ. She was angry with me because, after 30 minuted of being bullied by the security guy, I got snarky with her. It was suggested by a AP that this is where it whole thing blew up. Just for grins I looked at this womens Facebook page and found the title being ” Forget anger management, just quit pissing me off” She had many derogatory comments about this as well as a list of other angry people validating her negativity. I have since found this woman has been behaving this way for a long time. This is so wrong. I loved my job more than anything in the world. It has taken me 40 years to find my passion to have it ripped out from under me for no reason. My performance reports have always been good. The teacher who took my class (on our team) asked why they would get rid of such a great teacher, they told him it had nothing to do with my teaching skills. Needless to say, I have a hard time understanding why these people can get away with this. I cried all summer. I can’t find anyone to help me. I would think that the 198 teachers who got this treatment in May would band together. I have applied to 19 positions and have been rejected by all of them. All do to this BS “non-renewal” that literally blackballs us. In conclusion, I believe we are in big trouble with leadership like Easley who announces that he does not need to keep track of what his principals are doing because he trusts them. My principal started this year and I am not sure why, other than I think DPS would like to close the school. This man has failed at everything he has done and has no idea how to turnaround a school that is in so much touble.

    • September 25, 2010 11:34 am

      Disgusting and heartbreaking– DPS in a nutshell. We do need to band together; email me (TeacherSabrinaFSP@gmail.com) to talk more about that. Can I re-post your comment as a story of its own?

Trackbacks

  1. Retaliation in Denver Public Schools, Pt. 1 « Failing Schools

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: