Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part Five

I was a union steward for 10 years. One of the things I was taught as a union steward is that if a staff member is given an order by an administrator that the staff member believes is unlawful, the staff member is to carry out that order, and then report the incident to the proper authorities. Failure to carry out an administrator’s directive (even an illegal one) constitutes insubordination and can result in disciplinary action against the employee. At great personal risk to themselves, two courageous teachers, Mr. Rick Massa (no longer at NKC) and Mr. Tebilio Diaz forced the district to open an official investigation of possible cheating by Dr. Roos on the FAA. The investigation was held off campus, during school time. When my colleagues learned that I intended to testify at that investigation, they pulled me aside and told me I was making a terrible mistake. They said that the investigation was a farce, and that Dr. Roos would be cleared, and then I would be retaliated against. They also said that fear of retaliation was causing them to avoid testifying. When I agreed to testify a second time at the hearing that reinstated Ms. Morales, my colleagues again pulled me aside and again said I would be targeted for retaliation , and fear of retaliation was keeping them from testifying on behalf of Ms. Morales. My colleagues were correct that Dr. Roos was cleared of cheating on the FAA, and they were correct that myself and others who testified were targeted for what appeared to be retaliation afterwards.

Although I have a masters degree in guidance and counseling, I am not a mental health professional. Having said that, Dr. Roos seems to exhibit wild mood swings at NKC. During one faculty meeting, she became very abusive and berated the entire staff and told the staff that their performance was unprofessional and unacceptable and that we were failing to provide adequate care for the children of our school. Dr. Roos then began a prolonged period of uncontrollable weeping in front of the staff. As a result of these actions, the NKC staff drew up a letter to district officials describing what had happened. We asked the district to get Dr. Roos the help she seemed to need. We got a typical district response: total silence. We did not even get a note acknowledging receipt of our letter.

A second red flag that Dr. Roos was a poorly qualified principal was the district inquiry concerning possible cheating on the FAA by Dr. Roos

A third warning that the district chose to ignore was the fact that a teacher that Dr. Roos recommended for termination was reinstated (with some, but not all of the back pay that teacher deserved) after a judge determined the termination occurred without just cause.

A fourth warning the district chose to ignore was the fact that the district’s top PTA official had to be called to sit in and personally observe the election of the EXTREMELY popular president of our school’s PTA. The name of the candidate in question is Kayla Martinez. Although Mrs. Martinez and the Ryder Corporation have partnered with NKC for over 20 years, and although Mrs. Martinez and the Ryder Corporation presented NKC with a check for $50,000 for Smart Boards in every classroom at NKC, and although Mrs. Martinez and the Ryder Corporation have provided a Christmas party, complete with a visit from Santa, and the Miami Heat Cheerleaders and SEVERAL gifts for every child in NKC for over 20 years, and although Mrs. Martinez and the Ryder Corporation have provided free turkeys at Thanksgiving for MANY needy NKC families for many years, for some reason, Dr. Roos saw fit to illegally prevent this hard working, caring, and giving person from being present during the aborted PTA election during the school’s annual Back To School night. When the MDCPS PTA official wrested control of the PTA election away from Dr. Roos, and personally conducted it himself, in the largest turn out ever for a PTA election at NKC, Mrs. Martinez was easily elected president.

The fifth unheeded warning by the district was the 16 page letter this blogger sent on June 8, 2015 to 5 high ranking officials (with no response from any of them).

A sixth unheeded warning was the fact that Dr. Roos had to be summoned to a meeting with MDCPS  officials and given a cease and desist order and an order to apologize to this blogger and to refrain from citing this blogger with a letter of reprimand to be placed in his personnel file for carrying out a directive of Dr. Roos. MDCPS cannot say it was not given several warnings of Dr. Roos’ spectacular failures as the principal of NKC.

Dr. Alberto Fernandez and the faculty council decided to explore conversion to a charter school in part because the district was exerting a great deal of pressure on our staff to abandon the Small Step Curriculum and switch to the very expensive and inappropriate Unique Learning System (ULS) curriculum. This new curriculum, while appropriate for the two highest groups of mentally retarded children (Educable and Trainable) is simply beyond the mental capacity of profoundly mentally retarded children. When our school first implemented the ULS (after Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol were expelled by superintendent Carvalho), parents were so outraged that they showed up en masse in front of our school one morning with picket signs! Here are some of the concepts we are now expected to teach our profoundly mentally retarded students through the ULS curriculum:

  1. The three branches of government, and the system of checks and balances built into those three branches of the government,
  2. Global warming; what causes it and how it can be prevented.
  3. What protons, electrons, and neutrons are and how they work together to produce electricity,
  4. Animal food chains and the interdependence and interconnectedness of flora and fauna,
  5. The difference between city, state, and national governments,
  6. The chemical interactions that cause fire to reduce a piece of wood to ashes,
  7. The chemical composition of the air we breathe. This material is FAR, FAR above the intellectual capacity of the best of the NKC students.

During the course of my last year of employment at NKC, I received several heartbreaking phone calls from the mother of one of my students, BEGGING me to toilet train her son (a skill he MUST master if he is to be placed in a sheltered workshop after graduation). As a school board employee, I had a gag order, and could not tell this desperate woman the truth about the “education” her son was receiving. While I would have liked to have made toilet training my top goal for this young man, the assistant principal, Mrs. Alicia Fernandez has a master key to every classroom and can and does walk unannounced into classrooms, and if she had walked into my classroom and discovered this young man was being toilet trained instead of “learning” about the checks and balances of the three branches of the government, I would have been subjected to disciplinary action.

In a nutshell, taxpayers are shelling out a great deal of money for a curriculum that has little or no merit for profoundly mentally handicapped children. Many teachers say that if taxpayers fully understood the curriculum being forced down teacher’s throats, there would be nationwide rioting! Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol committed career suicide by attempting to block the implementation of the ULS curriculum at NKC. It was a case of David vs. Goliath, and unfortunately, this time Goliath has won. Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol came within a whisker of being fired for trying to protect children who literally cannot speak for themselves. The writer of this blog is an army veteran. Never during my three year army stint did I see a level of courage that approached the heroism of these two fine gentlemen.  Sadly, their worst fears are now a daily reality for the students and staff of NKC.

To continue the farce, NKC staff have been ordered to teach math, reading, science, writing, and social studies  to profoundly mentally retarded students. A few years ago, this blog writer had the privilege of having one of the smartest students in the school in his class. This young man could reliably count to three. This blog writer began his math lessons with the concepts of learning to count to ten, and addition and subtraction of one digit numbers, concepts that none of my students were able to grasp. In math, learning is sequential. Students must master one concept before they can advance to the next, more complex concept. For many months, counting to ten and addition and subtraction were listed on my lesson plans, because my students had not mastered these concepts. One day, Mrs. Alicia Fernandez (the assistant principal)  came storming into my classroom, unannounced.  When she saw that no other staff members were present as witnesses, she began berating and shouting at me.

(Both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez shout at staff they don’t like whenever there are no witnesses present. If eyewitnesses are present, the disliked staff are spoken to pleasantly and politely). This has gone on for years, and probably continues to this day. This seems to indicate that both current NKC administrators are well aware that shouting at staff is an illegal activity. Respect at NKC is a one way street. It is given by staff by administrators, but administrators speak courteously and respectfully to disliked staff only when witnesses are present. It would be a good idea for UTD to visit NKC and ask staff if this practice persists and if a pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation is being actively cultivated by the current NKC administrators.

The reason for Mrs. Fernandez’ displeasure with this blog writer on that day was (in Mrs. Fernandez’ words) “You have had counting, addition, and subtraction on your lesson plans for months. What will that look like if auditors come to our school?” (May auditors come to NKC in the very near future!) This blog writer remained silent, due to a fear that any answer would result in an accusation of insubordination. Mrs. Fernandez then ordered this blog writer to have new math goals on his lesson plans every two weeks. Here are some of the math concepts this blog writer presented (as opposed to taught) to his class:

  1. Multiplication,
  2. Division,
  3. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of fractions,
  4. Decimals,
  5. Percentages.

Mrs. Fernandez had no further objections to my math lesson plans!  One of the many disappointments the NKC staff has with the present NKC administrators is that those administrators seem to care very little whether any actual learning takes place at the school, as long as things look good on paper. The question this blog writer would have liked to ask Mrs. Fernandez is:

“What is it going to look like to auditors if there are things on my lesson plans that profoundly mentally retarded children cannot possibly be expected to master?”

Had I been questioned by auditors, it is doubtful Mrs. Fernandez would have stepped forward to tell the auditors that she (Mrs. Fernandez) was responsible for the outlandish things in this blogger’s and other teachers’ lesson plans. Teaching at NKC reminded this blog writer of the fable of the emperor’s new clothes. The emperor was naked, but only a young child blurted out the truth, while all the adults gushed over the emperor’s beautiful clothes. As a small child, this blog writer wondered how the adults could be so blind as to not notice the obvious. As an adult, this blog writer realizes those adults kept their mouths shut not out of blindness, but out of a fear of severe punishment. At NKC and other schools throughout the country, teachers who speak out against ineffective curriculums are labeled as troublemakers and often falsely accused of of potentially career ending offenses. This certainly happened at NKC, and it will be discussed later on in the blog.

A few years ago, this blog writer had an experience that forever altered his perception of profoundly mentally retarded children. It was the end of the school day, and all of the students and staff were gathered at the bus loading area to put the students on the bus to go home. One young lady, who this blogger will refer to as Grace (not her real name) caught this blogger’s attention. Grace was one of the highest functioning students who attended our school. Grace caught this blogger’s attention because she had an untied shoelace and this blogger was concerned that she might trip and hurt herself.  This blogger had never met a profoundly mentally retarded student capable of tying her/his own shoelaces. So this blogger bent down to tie Grace’s shoelaces for her. At this point, Grace became extremely agitated. “No,” she shouted, and pushed this blogger away. Grace then bent down and correctly tied her own shoe! She then stood up and gave me one of the most brilliant and dazzling smiles this blogger has ever seen. The sense of pride, accomplishment, and achievement on her face was unmistakable.  Her unspoken message was,

“I no longer need you to tie my shoelaces for me. I have achieved independence in this area.”

At that moment, Grace and this blogger changed places and she became the teacher and this blogger became the student. Grace taught this blogger that whether a person is a Nobel prize winning scientist or a profoundly mentally retarded student, the need to achieve goals and to learn to do new things is a universal human need. Grace learned to perform the complex, multi-step task of tying her shoe from the Small Step Curriculum (no longer allowed to be used at NKC). Sadly, the ULS curriculum which has been imposed on NKC from MDCPS district officials, nearly guarantees that students such as Grace will have few or no opportunities to learn self-help skills to improve the quality of their lives. The real danger is that a child who enters NKC at age 3 will exit that school at age 22 having learned very little during the 19 years he or she was there. The extremely expensive ULS curriculum certainly serves the needs of vendors and school board members who receive reelection funds from those vendors, but it does NOT serve the needs of profoundly mentally handicapped students., parents, or taxpayers. One person at NKC who was bold enough to give voice to his opposition to the ULS curriculum soon found himself the defendant of serious charges. This fine gentleman spent thousands of dollars of his own money fighting off manufactured potentially career ending charges against him.

This is the fifth installment of my blog. The blog can be accessed in its entirety at mdcpsallegations.com.

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