Letter from a Denver Special Ed Teacher
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.
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.