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

The general public may not know much about the yearly achievement test given to profoundly mentally retarded children. This test is called the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA). A person who is not familiar with how this test is scored could look at FAA test scores and be fooled into thinking that students have performed far better on this test than they actually have.

Here’s how the test works: The teacher asks a test question and the child has three choices to choose from.  (The majority of profoundly mentally handicapped students do not look at the test book, and make no choice.). If the child makes the correct choice, he/she is awarded 9 points. If a child makes no choice at all, or makes an incorrect choice, the teacher covers up one of the incorrect choices (the child now has only two choices to choose from)  and asks the question a second time. If the child makes the correct choice at this point, he/she is awarded 6 points.  If the child makes no choice, or chooses incorrectly, the remaining incorrect response is then covered up so that only the correct response remains. The teacher asks the question a third time. If the child answers correctly, he/she is awarded 2 points. If the child makes no response, the teacher then grasps the child’s hand and places it on the correct response. The child is then awarded one point.

At the end of the 20 question test, a child who has not made one single independent choice, and who may not have even looked at the test booklet during the entire testing process has a score of 20 points! Additionally, awarding test takers 9 points for a correct answer the first time, or 6 points for a correct answer the second time gives a test score that sounds more impressive than it actually is. Tragically, the farce gets even worse. The only way a test taker can score a zero on a test question is if the child refuses to allow the teacher to place the child’s hand on the correct response. Many profoundly mentally retarded children are “touch aversive”. This means they do not like to be touched in any manner. Therefore, when the teacher attempts to place the child’s hand on the correct response, the child violently resists this touching, and attempts to jerk his/her hand away. At “The People’s Republic” of NKC, a teacher’s job is on the line if a student does poorly on the test and the teacher may have children of his/her own to feed and clothe, so a wrestling match ensues, with the terrified student attempting to wrestle his or her hand away, while the terrified teacher attempts to wrestle that hand onto the correct answer.

A passerby, observing this, may think he or she is witnessing child abuse, and to be perfectly honest, what is occurring IS child abuse. However, these achievement tests to children with IQ’s of 25 and below generate money for vendors. The repeated pleas (over a period of many years) of administrators at schools for profoundly mentally retarded children throughout Florida for either a test appropriate for children of this IQ range, or a waiver from this yearly achievement test have gone unheeded.

Two further points need to be made regarding the FAA.

  1. Much of the FAA consists of three side-by-side pictures. (For example, the test question may show pictures of a comb, a hat, and a fork). The teacher then says, “Point to the fork.”  Since Dr. Roos became the NKC principal, NKC students have shown an astonishing improvement on their performance on the FAA. Dr. Roos may explain these astonishing gains by saying that she has instructed teachers to bring in actual objects that correspond to the pictured objects. Thus, the teacher shows the student an actual comb, hat,  and fork and then asks the child to point to the fork. Dr. Roos does indeed do this. Dr. Alberto Fernandez also did this  when he was the NKC principal, so that would not explain the dramatic improvement in FAA test scores after Dr. Roos became the new principal of NKC.
  2. Starting last year, profoundly mentally handicapped students (with IQ’s of 25 and below) were given an essay test as a part of the FAA (Ah, the emperor’s new clothes are indeed magnificent!)

If this blog writer is correct, the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) contract states that it is the sole responsibility of administrators to put unruly students on the bus in the afternoon when they go home, or to take unruly students off the bus when they arrive in the morning. Nevertheless, at NKC, as a courtesy to our two administrators, male teachers put on or take off unruly students from the buses. (Nearly all NKC students come to school on buses). One of the characteristics of profoundly mentally handicapped (PMH) students is an inability to transition to new activities. When PMH students arrive at school, or when they go home in the afternoon, they may not want to get on or off the bus. When this happens, staff first attempt to coax or cajole the child into voluntarily exiting or boarding the bus with a favorite toy, a favorite food, or promise of a favorite activity. If this fails, the child’s hand is gently grasped and the teacher attempts to pull the child to a standing position, while speaking to the child in a gentle and encouraging voice. If this fails, several male faculty members are summoned who explain to the child that he/she has a choice to either exit/board the bus or to be carried off/on the bus. If the child still refuses to exit/board the bus, several male staff members grasp the child by the arms and legs and as gently as possible escort or carry the child on or off the bus. Students attend our school until the age of 22, so some students are adult in terms of both size and strength, and they fight like tigers when they are carried on or off a bus. The writer of this blog has been bitten, kicked, scratched, and had many back, wrist, and arm sprains as a result of helping to put students on and off buses. Neither this blog writer or any other male staff members take these student struggles personally, and we are careful to use the minimum amount of restraint needed to escort unwilling students on or off buses.

One older, very strong male student is frequently difficult to get on or off the school bus or his parents’ personal vehicle. On several occasions, these parents have personally witnessed male staff members getting their child into or out of  a vehicle. One day, an NKC administrator appeared to decide to use a male staff member’s extraction of this young man from a vehicle as a weapon against that staff member (Javier Ruiz Lopez). Mr. Ruiz Lopez is still an NKC staff member. (Again, Mr. Ruiz Lopez has had no contact with this blog writer since this blog writer’s retirement, and he played no part whatsoever in the creation of this blog. Hopefully, this will be enough to shield Mr. Ruiz Lopez from retaliation at the hands of “The People’s Republic.”) Mr. Ruiz Lopez was accused of using excessive force to extract the student. This extraction happened in full view of the entire staff, who are very protective of our students, and would report any staff member who abused a student. No other staff member witnessed Mr. Ruiz Lopez using anything more than the minimal amount of restraint needed to extract this young man from the vehicle. When the mother of this NKC student was contacted by the administration and urged to file charges against Mr. Ruiz Lopez, she became very angry and said Mr. Ruiz Lopez had done nothing wrong and she refused to be a party to charges that were blatant lies.

Whether by their own design or by orders from MDCPS district officials, the present NKC administrators give the appearance of going out of their way to create a hostile work environment to terminate staff, cause them to retire, or to seek transfers to other schools.

Given the fact that the present NKC administration appears to have chosen to make a favor that male staff have done for the two administrators of NKC into a potentially career ending weapon, this blog writer is asking that UTD visit NKC and tell the two administrators that from now on, getting unruly students on and off buses is now (as the contract states) the SOLE responsibility of administrators. This does not mean that male staff members continue to do this job under the supervision of administrators. It means that administrators do the job all by themselves. This way, administrators can be assured that excessive force will not be used!

NKC recently lost the services of a gentleman who has nearly 40 years of teaching experience. He has joined a very long list of staff who have left KNC since Dr. Tracy Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez have become the school administrators. He is now teaching at another MDCPS school. If a survey were taken among NKC staff to determine the best teachers at the school, it is probable that nearly the entire staff would have listed this recently retired teacher as one of the best teachers at NKC. This outstanding educator was one of the teachers who forced the MDCPS district to open an official investigation into possible cheating by Dr. Roos on the FAA. He also agreed to testify on behalf of Ms. Morales at her reinstatement hearing. Finally, he testified on behalf of Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol at their unlawful reprisal and abuse of power  legal hearing. Prior to his participation in these legal and protected activities, this teacher had an unblemished record spanning well over 30 years. This teacher appears to have been the victim of a vigorous program of retaliation by MDCPS for his participation in legally protected activities. Sadly, this highly accomplished teacher found himself facing several bogus charges shortly after participating in the above mentioned protected activities. Among the false accusations against this teacher were inappropriately going to the rest room with a student, cheating on the FAA, and gross neglect of a student. As a result of these potentially career ending charges, this teacher incurred substantial legal fees. This teacher has a pending lawsuit against the school board in state and Federal court. Therefore, this blogger will not provide much information about the charges and the incidents related to the cases.

However, this blogger can say that he was falsely charged with gross neglect of a student. This teacher had a student in his class who is prone to choking incidents. That fact is noted in the child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). (In a previous year, this young man was a student in this blogger’s class. During the course of that school year, this young man also experienced a few brief choking incidents while a member of this blogger’s class). This young man frequently stuffs enormous quantities of food into his mouth, unaware of the danger he is putting himself into. For this reason, this young man is monitored very closely at meal times. Without getting into more details, let me just say that the teacher saved the student’s life. In a normal school, this teacher would have been warmly congratulated for his prompt and appropriate actions. In “The People’s Republic” of NKC, this teacher’s actions constituted gross neglect of a child, and he was written up on potentially career ending charges. In the 25 years this blogger has been a teacher at NKC, this writer has never seen a teacher written up for taking prompt and effective action when a student began to choke. Dr. Roos has taken an aggressive step never used before and appears to be using the choking incidents of our students as a weapon to use against teachers she doesn’t like and wants to get rid of. Only in “The People’s Republic” of NKC would a teacher’s prompt and effective actions to save the life of a choking child be twisted and perverted into charges of gross child neglect.

On June 8, 2015, this blogger wrote a 16 page letter that was sent to 5 important MDCPS officials (Three of those recipients are school board members). The letter stated that due to Dr. Roos decision to bring potentially career ending charges against a teacher who saved a child’s life, the potential exists for a needless and easily preventable death to occur on our campus. If food is deeply lodged in a child’s throat, it can take 2-3 minutes to dislodge. If caretakers are not next to the child when this happens, more time can elapse before help arrives. It does not take long before irreversible brain damage or even death takes place. A few years ago, a different young man at NKC attempted to swallow an entire pancake without chewing it. The pancake was so deeply lodged in his throat that an NKC staff member (who had graduated from the Fireman’s Academy and was a fully trained paramedic who rode in ambulances during the weekends) reached down into the young man’s throat and extracted the pancake. It took that fully trained paramedic, who was in the cafeteria when the incident occurred  2-3 minutes to save the child’s life. If this child had to wait until outside paramedics arrived, he would have perished. The name of that fully trained paramedic , (who has joined the very long list of staff who have left NKC since Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez became the NKC administrators) was Mr. Frank Lozada. During the time we were fortunate enough to have Mr. Lozada as a staff member, he saved the lives of three people on our campus. He saved two children who nearly choked to death on food and one staff member who went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.

To quote from the letter that this blogger sent EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO to 5 high ranking MDCPS officials:

“This (charging a staff member who saved a child’s life) with gross child neglect has resulted in a climate of fear among our staff. If a student begins to choke, a relatively new and inexperienced staff member (as seasoned staff members have retired or transferred due to the inhospitable work environment at NKC, they have been replaced by recent college graduates) may hesitate for several seconds before summoning help from our on-site nursing staff. The new staff member may hesitate, hoping that the child spontaneously ejects the food and that the administration has not observed the event. The staff member may hesitate for a minute or so, fearing that his/her job may be at stake (in a dismal job market and economy). That single minute wasted where help is not summoned due to fears of administrative reprisals could mean the difference between an outcome resulting in no injury and an outcome resulting in permanent brain injury or even death. Staff need to know that if they act with due diligence, they will not be charged if a student experiences a choking incident.”

In this writer’s letter of 18 months ago, this blogger suggested two actions that could prevent one or more needless and easily avoided deaths at NKC. As it was June, and school was over for the year, one suggestion was that Mr. Carvalho replace Dr. Roos with a more seasoned principal. This blogger is puzzled by the fact that Mr. Carvalho seemed to have no qualms about removing two highly qualified administrators in May, 2012, for a (later disproved) charge of intimidating NKC staff, yet Mr. Carvalho chose NOT to remove a very troublesome administrator after the school year had ended! This blogger’s other suggestion was that in the future, staff whose diligent actions save the life of a child will no longer be charged with gross child neglect.

Timothy McVeigh, the evil man who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, was asked how he could kill over 100 kindergarten children who were housed in that building. He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “they were collateral damage.” While this blogger is not comparing Mr. McVeigh to Mr. Carvalho, it is only fair to observe that in the EIGHTEEN MONTHS since this blogger sent a 16 page letter warning of a potentially life threatening situation, virtually NOTHING has been done to prevent this easily avoidable tragedy from occurring! During that time, the situation at NKC has gotten much more serious, as Mr. Lozada (the trained paramedic) is no longer at NKC. A teacher at NKC who saved a child’s life has been charged with gross neglect of one child. Perhaps a charge of gross neglect of over 100 children at NKC could be applied to Superintendent Carvalho, Dr. Larry Feldman, Ms. Perla Tabares Hantman, Dr. Martha Perez, Dr. Tracy Roos, and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez, who have knowingly permitted a potentially life threatening condition to exist at NKC for 18 months. Given the fact that neither Mr. Carvalho or the school board has taken appropriate action, this blogger is hoping state and/or Federal authorities  will step in and safeguard the lives of NKC children.

This blogger would like to repeat comments made at the end of the June 8,2015 letter this blogger sent to 5 MDCPS officials: “Based on Mr. Carvalho’s statement [made during his sole very brief visit to NKC] (“If any MDCPS wants to convert to a charter school, they are going to have to come through me.”) and Dr. Roos actions over the last three years, many NKC staff members believe the district is viciously and deliberately retaliating against this school. If the goal of the punishment our staff has received for the last three years is intimidation, that goal has been achieved. Our staff feels deeply intimidated by the district. The NKC staff COMLETELY abandoned the idea of converting to a charter school about two and a half years ago. Any staff member foolish enough to bring up the subject of converting to a charter school would immediately be vigorously opposed by the entire staff. The NKC staff understands that the district response would be swift and brutal. Therefore, if the district is punishing our staff to prevent a charter conversion, that punishment can stop. Perhaps the district should declare an amnesty for the NKC staff. A hundred years from now, NKC will still be a public school. If the district is punishing NKC as an example of what happens to schools that attempt to convert to a charter school, then I suppose the punishment will continue.”

In addition to this quote from the June 8, 2015 letter, that same letter contained an in-depth description of the numerous potentially career ending charges the previously described NKC teacher faced, so the district was well aware of what was going on at NKC. This blogger wishes to strongly emphasize that the following action occurred in the fall of 2015, a few months AFTER the district received the June 8, 2015 letter.

In a move that could have come out of the play book of the former Soviet Union, the above mentioned teacher, on very brief notice, was summoned by MDCPS district officials to a meeting downtown. This teacher was not allowed to have his lawyer present at that meeting. At the time of that meeting, this teacher had been cleared of most of the charges against him (due to insufficient evidence). The only remaining charge was a very minor charge. Nevertheless, the district told this teacher he had two options. His two options were to either retire immediately or be fired. What the district did NOT mention was that given the fact that the only remaining charge was very minor, this teacher had a third option, namely to continue his teaching career. This teacher knew he had this third option ONLY because he was told of it by his attorney. This teacher is still teaching in MDCPS. This blogger suspects that every day he reports for work, he may be wondering if he will again be summoned for another Soviet Union style meeting by MDCPS officials. Based on these events, it is not difficult to see how a reasonable person might draw the conclusion that Mr. Carvalho seems to be a very vindictive man, and MDCPS seems to be a lawless entity. On bended knee, this blogger is BEGGING any labor law attorneys, State of Florida or Federal education authorities who read this blog to assume control of the nation’s fourth largest school district and reestablish law  and order.  (Hopefully, MDCPS has kept a record of this meeting). It is distressing that Mr. Carvalho did not see fit to replace the principal of NKC [Dr.Roos] after receiving numerous written notifications of questionable decisions she had made, when he could have done so in June, after the conclusion of the school year. However, the district DID see fit to attempt to remove a teacher who had been cleared of all but a very minor offense part way through the following school year.

This is the sixth installment of this series. The series can be accessed in its entirety at mdcpsallegations.com

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