Stripping Tenure a Chore in N.J.
Barbara Martinez with an outstanding article on the enormous difficulty of firing even the worst teachers in NJ who hit students, have sex with them, or sell drugs to them – the union grieves them all…:
As executive director of security for the Paterson, N.J., school system, one of James Smith's jobs is to try to remove teachers accused of wrongdoing from the district. That, combined with his 25 years in the Paterson Police Department, has taught him an important lesson: Trying to get rid of teachers is "10 times more difficult than any criminal case I've ever worked on," he said.
One recent case the retired police captain points to is that of a special-education teacher who for years had been accused by students, parents and other teachers of hitting students. The case dragged on for four years and cost Paterson more than $400,000 to finally get the teacher dismissed. That included more than $280,000 the teacher collected in salary (even though he was no longer working) while the case was argued.
Few in New Jersey attempt what Mr. Smith does. In 2008, the last year for which the state Department of Education provides statistics, only 35 tenure cases were filed in the state. Nineteen resulted in the loss of tenure. There are more than 120,000 teachers in the state, and more than 600 school districts. Paterson is one of the state's largest districts, with 52 schools and 24,000 students.
…In 2002, Mr. Smith was brought in as security director during an overhaul sparked by a wilding spree in which students killed a homeless man. He didn't think he would be handling tenure cases until two weeks into the job, when a teacher was accused of sexual activities with students. Mr. Smith launched tenure charges to strip the teacher of her license at the same time she was facing criminal charges.
It was then that he learned how long and onerous the cases can be.
In one recent case, a teacher resigned more than a year after being arrested for purchasing drugs from a former student. The teachers union paid for the teacher's legal representation, as is the case generally when teachers are accused of wrongdoing. The teacher got paid for most of the time between his arrest in April 2009 and his resignation in June 2010.
- DECEMBER 18, 2010