By CHRIS EBERHART
The Rye School District has charged one of four teachers implicated in a complaint about “improper coaching” from the Milton and Osborn schools.
A source close to the suspended Milton teacher said the teacher was notified about the charges on Nov. 21, a day after the Board of Education met for a closed-door executive meeting, where it is believed that it voted to bring charges against the teacher.
The school district has not disclosed what the charges were or how many there are and the teacher in question wishes to remain anonymous.
When asked to comment or confirm the charges, the school district would only reiterate its public stance that it is “actively seeking a resolution to the matter.”
The source close to the teacher said the teacher has not yet hired an attorney.
Throughout the testing scandal, which was uncovered back in May, there has been a growing sense of frustration on behalf of district parents at the schools with the Board of Education’s refusal to discuss or comment on the matter. The school board’s decision to levy charges against one teacher with no explanation has also been criticized by parents in recent days. But, according to Bob Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, Education Law 3020-a states a school district must vote on charges levied against a tenured teacher in executive session as a measure to protect the teachers, and the charges do not have to be made public.
Freeman said, because of lawyers and legal fees, 3020-a cases are costly and time consuming.
The school is already spending $190,000, including employer costs for the four teachers brought on to replace the suspended teachers for this semester, in addition to paying the suspended teachers their full salaries, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Erik Kamander, who started an online petition to have the teachers reinstated that garnered 117 signatures, said the district is at fault for putting the teachers in a bad situation.
“The whole issue with the teachers started because the administration made the foolish decision to have teachers proctor their own classes’ tests,” Kamander said. “Yet, that same administration takes no accountability and places all the blame on the teachers. The consequences the administration is imposing on the teachers far surpasses what would be reasonable for the allegations.”
In the meantime, the suspended teachers continue to place grade-level stickers on textbooks in a 10-foot by 9-foot room at the Midland Avenue Rye School of Leadership building, where they’ve been since October, when accusations of “improper coaching” by at least one parent during state math and English language arts assessment tests conducted back in April.
Recently, the tests were declared invalid by the state and parents and students were not allowed to see the grades. The state assessment tests are part of the New York State Regents Reform, which was passed by the state in May 2010 and implemented last year, and the teacher evaluations are determined by how their students perform on those tests.
The four teachers were informed of the allegations on May 20, suspended, and, in August, received letters in the mail saying they were “administratively reassigned to home.” The school district notified the state Education Department and the Westchester County District Attorney’s office, which decided not to bring charges against any of the teachers.
The teachers started this school year on Sept. 9, but were pulled from their Milton and Osborn classrooms by the end of October.
Since then, the teachers have been working in a “rubber room,” an informal term used to describe holding rooms for suspended teachers as they await resolution to their cases.
Boukje van den Bosch, wh-ose daughter attends Osborn School, said it’s not worth taxpayer money to keep teachers in a rubber room.
“Does our board truly have enough evidence to justify spending what will be at least $250,000 of our tax money on additional legal fees?” van den Bosch said. “There is no need to keep our teachers reassigned to the rubber room and spend another $190,000 on leave replacement teachers. I am deeply concerned about the impact on our school budget for next year and that even more services will have to be cut.”