Last spring, DrRichSwier.com was kind enough to publish my education blog in a 7 part series on his excellent website. Readers who want to read my blog can access it at mdcpsallegations.com To recapitulate briefly, I recently retired from a 30 year teaching career in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) the nation’s fourth largest school district. For the last 25 years of my career, I taught at Neva King Cooper (NKC) a public school exclusively for profoundly mentally handicapped students ages 3-22 with IQs of 25 and below.
During the 2011-2012 school year, my school attempted to convert from a public school to a charter school. My school’s reason for attempting to convert to a charter school was that MDCPS superintendent Alberto Carvalho was attempting to force our school to adopt a new curriculum that was VASTLY above the intellectual capacity of our students. Florida law stipulates that public schools that attempt to convert from a public school to a charter school cannot be retaliated against. Regrettably, these laws provide for no punishment for school superintendents who willfully violate this law. Although many other schools throughout Florida have successfully converted from public schools to charter schools, this process, (in violation of Florida law) has never been allowed to occur in MDCPS. When NKC attempted to convert to a charter school, superintendent Alberto Carvalho illegally removed both the principal and assistant principal and attempted to fire them. The illegally transferred principal and assistant principal sued in court (court case DOAH 13-1492). The judge ruled that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was guilty of unlawful reprisal and abuse of authority. He noted that MDCPS was flagrant and blatant in its violation of Florida law. Although the judge recommended that both these administrators be returned to their posts at NKC, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was under no legal obligation to do so and assigned 2 different administrators to the school. (The two administrators who were illegally removed from NKC were posted to different schools,) Those 2 new NKC administrators are principal Tracy Roos, and assistant principal Alicia Fernandez. For the last 5 years, in violation of Florida law, Superintendent Carvalho and the 2 new NKC administrators have been retaliating against the staff of the school. Several staff members have stated that they feel like fish in a barrel against the heavily armed above mentioned individuals.
Here is a brief list of some of the most egregious offenses NKC staff have suffered at the hands of the 2 new NKC administrators: 1) On the recommendation of principal Tracy Roos , a teacher (Mrs. Luz Morales) was illegally terminated. Mrs. Morales appealed her termination (court case DOAH 145-2439) and the judge ruled her termination to be unwarranted. He ordered that Mrs. Morales be reinstated as a teacher in a different school. The judge recommended that Mrs. Morales be awarded 100% of the salary she forfeited during her illegal dismissal. Superintendent Carvalho ignored this recommendation and paid Mrs. Morales only 50% of her forfeited salary. The case against Mrs. Morales was so flimsy that MDCPS called not a single witness (not even Mrs. Tracy Roos, the principal of the school) during the hearing! The nation’s fourth largest school district presented literally no defense whatsoever of its decision to terminate Mrs. Morales! (It should be noted that Mrs. Morales supported investigating converting NKC to a charter school. It should also be noted that Mrs. Morales had previously accused Mrs. Roos, (the principal) of pressuring Mrs. Morales to cheat on the high stakes achievement test given to profoundly mentally handicapped students.)
2) Dr. Roos allegedly physically assaulted a school staff member on school grounds during school hours. This person was not a member of United Teachers of Dade (UTD), the teacher’s union. This person was fearful that if he/she reported this incident to the internal investigative bodies of MDCPS, his/her complaint would be ignored or dismissed and then he/she would be illegally retaliated against. This person’s fears are well founded, as the internal investigative bodies of the nation’s fourth largest school system seem to operate to sweep problems under the rug and protect high ranking school officials. The person who suffered this alleged physical assault is still a MDCPS employee at a different work site, if Florida or Federal investigators wish to look into this matter.
3) Both principal Tracy Roos and assistant principal Alicia Fernandez filed 7 potentially career ending charges against a teacher with a previously unblemished record of over 30 years. It should be noted that this teacher was also a supporter of exploring the option of converting NKC to a charter school. These charges appear to have been filed based upon very flimsy evidence. I make this statement because the MDCPS investigative bodies very rapidly dismissed 6 of the 7 charges against this teacher. The one remaining charge was of a very minor nature. In June of 2015, this blog writer wrote a 16 page letter concerning the charges against this teacher that I sent to 5 very senior MDCPS officials (three of those people are school board members). In October of 2015, four months after I sent my letter, MDCPS, on very short notice, summoned this teacher to a meeting. As this teacher was not a member of UTD, he hired an attorney. The attorney was not allowed to attend this meeting. At the meeting, this teacher (with only one very minor charge remaining against him) was told he had only two options. These two options were to either retire immediately or be terminated. Fortunately, his attorney had told this teacher that the only remaining charge against him was very minor, and therefore, he had a third (unannounced) option. That unannounced third option was to tell these high ranking MDCPS officials that he intended to exercise his lawful right to continue his employment as a teacher. This teacher chose to exercise his right to continue his employment with MDCPS. This attempt by MDCPS officials to terminate this employee based on a very minor infraction certainly seems to be in violation of both Florida and Federal labor law. It seems highly unlikely that Superintendent Carvalho was not informed of the contents of the letter I sent to three school board members. It also seems highly unlikely that the meeting to attempt to illegally pressure this teacher into retiring could have been held without Superintendent Carvalho’s knowledge and consent. This teacher currently has 2 lawsuits pending against MDCPS. One of these is in Federal Court. The other is in state court. It should be noted that Florida has some of the nation’s most conservative Federal judges, and a very high standard of evidence is needed to qualify for admission as a Florida Federal court case.
Two unmistakable indicators of both Mrs. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez failure as NKC administrators that MDCPS has chosen to overlook for 5 years are: 1) the high rate of staff turnover since these two administrators arrived at the school 2) the abysmally low ratings both of these administrators receive year after year from both parents and staff on the staff and parent satisfaction surveys. In my blog, I have listed 6 additional clear instances of Mrs. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez failures as administrators that MDCPS has chosen to ignore.
The greatest failure of Superintendent Carvalho , Mrs. Roos, and Mrs. Fernandez is their failure for over 2 years to take easily implemented steps to avoid one or more preventable choking deaths among our profoundly mentally handicapped students. A little background information will illuminate this problem. One of the 7 charges against the previously discussed teacher was gross neglect and endangerment of a child. Here is the story behind that astonishingly unwarranted charge. The teacher in question had a child in his class named Toby. (not the child’s real name) Toby was so prone to choking incidents that this tendency was noted on his Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Obviously, a child at risk for choking needs to be monitored very closely at mealtimes. However, given the fact that profoundly mentally handicapped students often have seizures that happen unexpectedly and can last for several minutes, and given the fact that these students frequently have sudden emotional outbursts where they injure either themselves or their peers, it is impossible to monitor a child who is prone to choking at all times. One day at meal time, Toby began to choke on his food. The teacher noticed this, took immediate and corrective action, and Toby ejected the food he had been choking on. The child did not lose consciousness and went back to eating his meal. As our entire student population eats their meals at the same time in the cafeteria, the entire staff witnessed the professional and proactive actions of this teacher. In a normal school, this teacher would have been warmly congratulated for his effective handling of the situation. Regrettably, NKC is FAR, FAR from a normal school. At the conclusion of Toby’s choking incident, Dr. Roos summoned our school’s on-site nursing staff for a medical report on the child. The nursing staff unanimously agreed that Toby was fine. I taught at NKC for 25 years. Never during that entire time had an administrator ever called for an ambulance for a child who was exhibiting no physical distress. After Toby ejected the food he was choking on and went back to eating his lunch, Dr. Roos took that unprecedented step. When the paramedics arrived, they were unable to identify the student they were supposed to rescue until Dr. Roos pointed out the child ( who was happily eating his lunch) to them. Dr. Roos demanded that Toby be taken to the hospital for observation. The paramedics told Dr. Roos that their regulations prohibited them from taking a child with no measurable or discernible health problems to the hospital. Dr. Roos then threatened to file a complaint if the paramedics did not take Toby to the hospital. To mollify Dr. Roos, the paramedics then tested Toby and found his vital signs to be normal. They then left the school and declined to take Toby to the hospital. Dr. Roos then allegedly phoned Toby’s guardian and threatened to report Toby’s guardian to the authorities for child abuse/neglect if the guardian did not take Toby to a doctor. Dr. Roos also allegedly strongly advised the guardian to file neglect/endangerment charges against Toby’s teacher. Toby’s guardian declined to take either of these actions. In the bizarre, perverse thinking of Dr. Roos, taking prompt and correct steps to save a child’s life constitutes neglect and child endangerment. Many staff members surmised that Mrs. Roos’ seemingly inexplicable actions might possibly have been motivated by revenge, as this teacher was one of the people who earlier reported Dr. Roos to the MDCPS authorities for possible cheating by Dr. Roos on the high stakes achievement test that we give to profoundly mentally handicapped children every year. To add insult to injury, this teacher also supported investigating converting NKC to a charter school.
As a result of the extremely serious and highly dubious charges filed by Dr. Roos against this teacher (who is widely regarded by our staff as one of the best teachers at the school) teachers are now fearful that Dr. Roos will repeatedly use choking incidents as a weapon to terminate teachers who supported the idea of exploring conversion to a charter school.
If the human brain is deprived of oxygen for just a few minutes, permanent brain damage or even death can occur. Dr. Roos seeming decision to use choking incidents as a weapon to terminate teachers she doesn’t like artificially and needlessly elevates the risk profoundly mentally handicapped children of NKC face. If an NKC student begins to choke, a terrified teacher, afraid his/her job may be at stake (even if he/she is blameless for the choking incident) may hesitate before summoning medical help, hoping the child spontaneously ejects the food he/she is choking on. Those few wasted seconds can literally mean the difference between life and death for our students.
Up until a few years ago, there was a teacher on our staff who was a graduate of the fire department academy and a fully trained paramedic who rode ambulances on weekends. This gentleman (who was also a superb teacher) is one of the long, long list of people who have left the school after Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez became our school administrators. On 3 occasions during my tenure at NKC, we had near death, stopped breathing incidents. On all 3 of those occasions, it was the teacher who was also a trained paramedic and not our on-site nursing staff who saved those lives. In one of those choking incidents, it took this fully trained paramedic nearly 3 minutes to clear the child’s blocked airways. Does NKC have the luxury ( or the moral authority) to add extra wasted time to that because MDCPS wants to play games to see if they can terminate a teacher whose only “crime” was to favor exploring conversion to a charter school? Profoundly mentally handicapped students, with IQs of 25 and below played no part whatsoever in the attempt to convert to a charter school. They should not have to pay with their lives for a decision in which they had no part. I have sent Superintendent Alberto Carvalho two certified letters. In those letters I suggested 3 actions to eliminate this needless risk. Those 3 actions are: 1) Replace Dr. Roos as the principal of NKC 2) Superintendent Carvalho should write a memo to NKC staff stating that staff who perform their duties with due diligence will not have charges filed against them. (Mr. Carvalho would then have to honor that pledge.) 3) All NKC staff should be trained in CPR on a yearly basis. In my blog, I listed 14 problem situations at NKC. Of those 14 areas of concern, eliminating the needless risk of profoundly mentally handicapped children choking to death is in my judgement the most pressing need of all.
In addition to the 2 letters I sent to Superintendent Carvalho, I sent the previously mentioned letter to 5 high ranking MDCPS officials in June 2015, I also wrote letters and sent copies of my blog to the Florida Department of Education, and the Federal Department of Education in Washington. To my utter astonishment, I have heard not a single word from a single person I wrote to! Given the fact that profoundly mentally handicapped children are needlessly being exposed to easily preventable choking deaths, this is simply inexcusable. I did not even receive confirmation of receipt of my correspondence from a single person! It almost makes me ashamed to say that I am an educator.
To my horror and astonishment, it’s business as usual at NKC. Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez are still the administrators at NKC, and the punishment and retaliation against NKC staff who dared to assert their lawful right to explore converting to a charter school continues unabated into a 6’th year.
In one of my letters to Superintendent Carvalho, I stated that Mr. Carvalho’s attitude bore a striking resemblance to Timothy McVeigh’s attitude. Timothy McVeigh was the monster who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Mr. McVeigh’s actions resulted in the needless deaths of many kindergarten children who were housed in that building. When Mr. McVeigh was asked if he felt any responsibility for those murdered children, he shrugged his shoulders and called their deaths “collateral damage.” Mr. Carvalho has known since June 2015 that his agent at NKC, Dr. Roos, is recklessly and needlessly exposing profoundly mentally handicapped children to an easily preventable death from choking on food. Mr. Carvalho had an opportunity to replace Dr. Roos in the summers of 2015, 2016, and 2017, and has declined to do so. When I originally compared Mr. Carvalho to Mr. McVeigh, I wondered if this comparison was too harsh. Regrettably, considering Mr. Carvalho’s seeming willingness to put profoundly mentally handicapped students lives at risk in order to “get” teachers who supported charter school conversion , this comparison seems on-target and richly deserved.
OK, it’s time for a riddle. Readers of this article (or my blog) are aware of Dr. Roos numerous egregious violations of Federal and state laws and violations of the MDCPS contract over a period of several years. Another MDCPS school principal was guilty of the sin of allowing dirty student bathrooms to exist on her campus. Superintendent Carvalho very abruptly fired one of these two principals (during the middle of the school year.) Which principal do you think Superintendent Carvalho fired? If you need a hint, the story of the school with the dirty bathrooms received prominent coverage in the Miami Herald newspaper, which caused Superintendent Carvalho to look bad. The correct answer to this riddle is that the principal with the dirty bathrooms was fired. Apparently, in MDCPS, numerous egregious violations will not cause a principal to be fired,. However, a principal who makes Mr. Carvalho look bad will very quickly be fired.
Prior to becoming MDCPS school superintendent, Mr. Carvalho served as the press representative (minister of propaganda, if you will) of a previous school superintendent, and cultivated many friendships within the Miami media. (A few years ago, Mr. Carvalho, a married man, had an on-going romantic relationship with the education reporter for the Miami Herald.) There seems to be an iron curtain of silence by the Miami media regarding negative coverage of Superintendent Carvalho. This blog writer has been repeatedly rebuffed by both the Miami Herald and an alternative Miami newspaper with regard to unfavorable information concerning Superintendent Carvalho. A Miami t.v. news station very abruptly cancelled a multi-part expose on how Superintendent Carvalho illegally smashed NKC’s attempt to explore conversion to a charter school, just before it was scheduled to air. No explanation for that abrupt cancellation was ever given.
The good news is that Mr. Carvalho is very swayed by negative publicity. Therefore, on bended knee, this blog writer is BEGGING readers of this article to contact Mr. Carvalho at 305-995-1430, or superintendent’s email@example.com (if this does not work, try it without the apostrophe), or MDCPS/ 1450N.E. Second Ave./ Suite 912/ Miami, Fl. 33132. Please urge Mr. Carvalho to 1) Replace Dr. Roos with another principal 2) Ask Mr. Carvalho to write a memo to the NKC staff pledging that in the future, NKC staff who perform their duties with due diligence will not have charges brought against them 3) Ask Mr. Carvalho to allow NKC staff to be trained on a yearly basis in CPR techniques.
During my last year of teaching at NKC, I was approached one day by another NKC teacher. This woman was genuinely puzzled by the fact that I was sticking my neck out to complain that the new curriculum that was being shoved down our throats (with no staff input) was FAR above the intellectual capacity of our profoundly mentally handicapped students. There is a very real possibility that profoundly mentally handicapped students will spend 19 years at NKC and learn absolutely nothing during that time from this curriculum. This teacher (who I will call Miss Insipid, which is not her real name) advised me that further protests on my part would get me in serious trouble. (This prediction turned out to be true.) I will never forget Miss Insipid’s next words: “The district [MDCPS] has been told many times that this new curriculum is completely worthless. We are still getting paid 100% of our salary. If the district wants to pay me to waste my time presenting material that everyone knows these children will never master, that’s the district’s failure, not mine.” Miss Insipid possesses the qualities that MDCPS highly prizes. She has the ability to keep her mouth shut and she is willing to turn a blind eye and obey without question. Miss Insipid has had no trouble at all from Dr. Roos. Miss Insipid will never have to worry about being falsely accused of physically or sexually abusing students, or “cheating” on the high stakes annual achievement test that we give to profoundly mentally handicapped students.
I want to contrast Miss Insipid to another teacher I had the honor of knowing very early in my career when I taught at a middle (junior high) school. I will call this teacher Betty, (which is not her real name.) Teaching was not just Betty’s career. Teaching was what Betty lived for. Betty demanded (and got) her students’ best intellectual effort. The principal of the school, being well aware of Betty’s teaching gifts, assigned her to teach a newly offered class of honors math. Betty’s students were “the cream of the crop.” They were bright, but lazy and pampered. They were the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers. At the beginning of the year, these students performed very poorly on Betty’s numerous and vigorous quizzes and tests, yet they did not bother to attend the tutoring sessions Betty offered, both before and after school. (Betty was one of the first teachers to arrive in the morning, and among the last to leave in the afternoon.) Betty warned her students that unless their quiz and test scores dramatically improved, they were in danger of receiving “D” or “F” grades for the first grading period. The students laughed at Betty. They said that Betty would have no choice but to award them good grades, because bad grades would make Betty look bad, and cause the students’ parents to complain to the principal about Betty. Betty assured her students that neither one of those facts would prevent her from giving out poor grades if those poor grades were merited. Betty was true to her word. At the end of the first grading period, the majority of her students did indeed receive either a “D” or an “F”. All hell broke loose. The principal came to Betty and BEGGED her to raise the students’ grades because the MDCPS downtown education bureaucrat was putting heavy pressure on the principal. Betty offered to speak to the downtown bureaucrat, but she insisted that under no circumstances would she change a single grade. Betty also faced a swarm of angry parents. Betty informed those parents that top ranked colleges are not impressed by good grades. They are impressed solely by high scores on college entrance exams. Betty stressed that high scores on those college entrance exams can be achieved only by a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. Betty also said that the self-discipline of intense studying needed for success at top ranked colleges needs to be developed starting in middle school. Betty sternly warned the principal, parents, and students that unless quiz and test scores improved dramatically, students would again receive poor or failing grades for the second grading period. Betty’s previously sparsely attended before and after school tutoring sessions suddenly became very crowded. Although Betty refused to “water down” her rigorous quizzes and tests, students’ performance did indeed dramatically increase.
The next school year, on the first day of class, Betty began with a stern lecture warning that students with poor quiz and test grades would receive poor or failing grades on their report cards. Half way through her lecture, a young man timidly raised his hand. He said, “Mrs. Smith, you don’t have to tell us that. We already know all about you.” For the remainder of her career, Mrs. Smith never again had to issue that warning. Students knew that Betty Smith was true to her word and would not back down . Students lucky enough to have had Betty Smith as a teacher learned far more than math. They learned that success comes only from hard work. They also learned that nothing improves self-esteem more than doing the best job you are capable of.
Readers of this article, which teacher would you rather have as your child’s teacher? Would you rather have Betty Smith, the teacher who demanded the best intellectual efforts of her students? Conversely, would you rather have Miss Insipid, the teacher who was willing to provide (without protest) a totally useless curriculum, provided she was paid her full salary? The sad truth is that unless your child is in an expensive private school, or a magnet program in a public school, your child’s teacher is far more likely to be a Miss Insipid than a Betty Smith. This is because grandstanding Florida politicians, in a move of monumental stupidity, have eliminated tenure for teachers. It is true that the absence of tenure makes it easier to eliminate ineffective teachers. However, a lack of tenure also washes out the best teachers. In MDCPS (and I suspect nationwide) blind obedience is prized much more than teaching excellence. A modern day Betty Smith (or Ben Smith) would simply not have her/his contract renewed because she/he gave out too many “bad” grades during the first grading period, and ignored an education bureaucrat’s order to award inflated grades. Blind obedience is prized by education bureaucrats for both teachers and administrators. Dr. Alberto Fernandez, the previous principal of Neva King Cooper, was previously ranked as the top school principal in MDCPS. (There are approximately 350 schools in MDCPS.) His refusal to adopt a curriculum that was CLEARLY inappropriate for profoundly mentally handicapped students very nearly got him fired. Superintendent Carvalho refrained from firing the county’s top ranked principal only on the orders of a judge! How many other principals, (seeing what very nearly happened to the top ranked principal in the county) will keep their mouths shut when MDCPS imposes an inappropriate curriculum on their school? Does the phrase “Common Core” come to mind?
If I were a recent college graduate with a teaching degree, and I had to make a career choice between being a teacher at NKC, or riding on the back of a garbage truck, I would choose to ride the back of the garbage truck.I am not being dramatic when I say that. I mean that in the literal sense. I spent the last 3 years of my teaching career “teaching” a curriculum that was VASTLY above the intellectual capacity of my students. My students learned NOTHING from that curriculum. There is nothing more soulless than doing “work” that is devoid of all meaning or purpose. In contrast, emptying people’s garbage cans provides a real service that is genuinely needed.
I am enormously, enormously disappointed that after all the hard work I went through writing my blog , and after all the letters I sent out to every education bureaucrat I could think of, the same utterly worthless (and very expensive) curriculum will again be presented to NKC students in the 2017-2018 school year. When this curriculum was first introduced at NKC, it was so unpopular that we had parents with signs, picketing outside of the school! I guess the need of vendors to sell expensive products to the schools, and the need of school board members to receive reelection campaign money from those grateful vendors supersedes the human right of profoundly mentally handicapped students to receive a meaningful education.
I wish to make two final points in this article. The first point concerns the vast difference in the way Dr. Tracy Roos treats those who favored converting to a charter school, as opposed to the way she treats those who opposed converting to a charter school. The second thing I wish to discuss is the yawning chasm in student performance on the Florida Alternate Assessment when Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the NKC principal as opposed to when Dr. Tracy Roos became the principal
Dr. Roos seems to have two vastly different criteria for administering adverse consequences to the staff of NKC. Staff who favored exploring conversion to a charter school seem to have a very low threshold for incurring punishment. A very strong case could be made that Dr. Roos’ threshold for these people is so low that it includes extremely flimsy evidence, or even outright lies. This article already discussed Mrs. Luz Morales, who was wrongfully terminated, in a case so weak that MDCPS literally presented no case in support of that termination. This article also discussed the gentleman who was accused of neglect and child endangerment, when in fact his prompt and proactive actions possibly prevented a child from choking to death. In contrast, there seems to be little or no adverse consequences for those staff who did not support conversion to a charter school, even when those offenses are so egregious that the law DEMANDS that the principal (Dr. Roos) take immediate and legally mandated actions. For example, Mrs. Ramos, a paraprofessional still working at NKC, allegedly reported to Dr. Roos that Mrs. Ramos had observed a teacher physically abusing a child during the 2015-2016 school year. This offense is so serious that it can result in a teacher being terminated. When Dr. Roos was allegedly made aware of this situation, the law MANDATES that Dr. Roos report this to the appropriate child protection agency, or face a permanent revocation of her (Dr. Roos) education license. Allegedly, Dr. Roos merely transferred the child to another class (I believe the child was transferred to the class of Mrs. Gregory and Mrs. Green.) The teacher who allegedly physically abused this child opposed conversion to a charter school. This teacher allegedly suffered no adverse consequences for his/her actions. It would be very easy to determine whether or not Dr. Roos reported this incident. Although MDCPs, and both Florida and Federal education authorities have been made aware of this incident, to the best of my knowledge, no investigation seems to have taken place.
Addionally, there is the unexplained, statistically improbable dramatic increase in performance on the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA) since Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez became the NKC administrators five years ago. If investigators wish to look into this matter, two female staff members involved in the FAA testing who are no longer at NKC should be questioned to see if any illegal actions took place.
Finally, things will never change at NKC unless a critical mass is achieved in public pressure for an investigation and reform. I give my permission for any person reading this article to quote any part of the article (or my blog) or the entire article or blog to any interested party. Hopefully, someone reading this article will have access to a powerful media outlet, or one or more people with enough influence to trigger an investigation.
My name is Bill Detzner. In June 2015, I retired from a 30 year career as a Special Education teacher with the Miami- Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS). I spent the last 25 years of my career teaching at Neva King Cooper (NKC) a public school exclusively for profoundly mentally retarded students with IQ’s of 25 and below. During my career, I was selected as my school’s teacher of the year, I served as my school’s United Teachers of Dade (UTD) steward for 10 years, and I was a department head. NKC serves students between the ages of 3-22. The goal of the NKC special education teachers is for some of those students to attend a sheltered workshop after graduation from school. Students who cannot be placed into sheltered workshops, are sometimes placed in group homes. Sadly, the curriculum my school has been using for the last five years, the Unique Learning System (ULS), will greatly reduce the number of students we place into sheltered workshops after graduation (I will discuss this further later on in the blog.) Special needs adults take enormous pride in earning a paycheck and doing meaningful work. A special needs student cannot be placed into a sheltered workshop unless he or she is toilet trained, relatively free of maladaptive behaviors, and able to remain on-task to perform repetitive tasks. Up until 5 years ago, the Neva King Cooper school’s curriculum was tailored to help students to achieve these goals. Most of our students are not toilet trained when they come to our school. They also exhibit many maladaptive behaviors, and an inability to remain on-task for long periods of time. Until the last 5 years, our curriculum placed a very heavy emphasis on toilet training , extinguishing maladaptive behaviors and replacing them with more socially acceptable behaviors, and a vocational program involving horticultural and other activities designed to increase on-task behavior in repetitive tasks. With the permission of MDCPS, our staff developed its own curriculum, which we called the Small Step Curriculum (SSC), based on the concept of task analysis. Task analysis breaks complex tasks into a series of simple sequential steps. If a person performs all of the simple steps in the correct order, the complex task is achieved. Up until 5 years ago, our staff achieved great success using task analysis to teach our students complex self-help tasks such as washing their hands and faces, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, dressing themselves (or assisting in dressing themselves) (this task was done while changing students to participate in our on-site swimming pool program), toileting, and feeding themselves. People who have suffered a stroke who can no longer independently perform these basic self-help skills suffer an enormous loss in self-esteem. Special needs children who master these skills experience a great deal of joy and pride in themselves when they succeed in learning these basic self-help skills. I believe that the need for accomplishment is a universal human need. ( I will discuss this further later on in the blog). Approximately 50% of our students are in wheelchairs. If a child remains in his or her wheelchair all day long, over a period of several years , his or her body “freezes” into a position that can cause muscles to atrophy and excruciating pain in adulthood. For this reason, up until 5 years ago, our staff used the M.O.V.E. curriculum, which involved getting students out of their wheelchairs and into equipment designed to prevent muscles from atrophying and permanent deformations in bodily posture. A staff of in-house physical and occupational therapists trained teachers to correctly position our students in this expensive equipment. Occasionally, we achieved minor miracles We had one young man that a doctor insisted would be confined for life to a wheelchair. Through the hard work of both staff and therapists, this young man learned to walk and then run independently. Tragically, the incredibly successful M.O.V.E. curriculum was abolished from our school 5 years ago. Even more astonishingly, at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, the new principal of our school, Dr. Tracy Roos, saw fit to transfer en masse our entire physical and occupational therapy staff out of our school, even though our school staff felt these people were highly effective, and hard working professionals. Hopefully, a powerful person, possibly a state of Florida or Federal Department of Education person who is reading this blog will have the authority to find out who authorized this transfer, and why such a highly unusual mass transfer didn’t raise a number of red flags. The transferred therapists were replaced by an equally competent staff of physical/occupational therapists who would like very much to do the job they have been trained to do. For some reason, the new staff of physical/occupational therapists are no longer allowed to visit classrooms and train teachers to correctly position wheelchair bound students in the very expensive equipment (bought with taxpayer money) that is now sitting unused in our school gym, gathering dust and rust. Hopefully, one or more powerful people will step forward to ask why therapists are no longer allowed to train teachers to use this equipment and to pressure MPCPS to allow the NKC therapy staff to use this equipment. I was the union steward at my school for 10 years. One night, at a meeting of all of all the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) stewards in the school district, the UTD president made a statement that I have never forgotten. The union president said ” In a nutshell, here is how the MDCPS district operates. The vendors who sell products and services to the school district want to sell as many products/services as possible. School board members want to get reelected. So school board members agree to purchase expensive products of questionable educational value from vendors. In return, vendors make large donations to school board members reelection campaigns It’s a wonderful system, unless you are a student, a parent, a taxpayer, or an educator.” For many years, the staff of NKC experienced great success using our Small Step and M.O.V.E. curriculums. Parents were pleased and in some cases astonished with the progress their sons and daughters were making at our school. During his career of over 30 years, the exiled principal of our school, Dr. Alberto Fernandez, received the highest possible evaluation for the 15 years he was the principal at NKC, and for most of the nearly 10 years he served as a central office administrator. Prior to his attempt to investigate converting NKC to a charter school (I’ll discuss that later on in this blog) Dr. Fernandez had never received a negative memorandum from any of his supervisors in all of his years as a District employee. Several years ago, MDCPS began to attempt to persuade Dr. Fernandez to drop our highly successful Small Step/M.O.V.E. curriculum and replace it with a very expensive and ineffective new curriculum called the Unique Learning System (ULS). Florida law allows a public school to convert to a charter school. (FS1002.33(3)(b)These laws explicitly state that administrators and staff who choose to exercise this right cannot be retaliated against by the school board or school board employees in charge of personnel matters. (FS1002.33(4)(a)) Regrettably, this law does not seem to invoke a penalty of any sort for a superintendent who chooses (however blatantly) to violate this law. (I will discuss this in greater detail later on in the blog) Dr. Fernandez and our assistant principal, Mr. Henny Cristobol felt that we could better serve the needs of our students by converting to a charter school. This decision was made not to defy Alberto Carvalho (the MDCPS superintendent,) but to serve the needs of profoundly mentally handicapped students, who literally cannot speak for themselves. They enlisted the services of Mr. Robin Gibson, an attorney who had helped several other Florida public schools to convert to charter schools. The proposal to explore converting to a charter school was referred to our faculty council. In a unanimous vote, the faculty council approved this proposal. When MDCPS top officials were notified, on February 2, 2012, of NKC’s plans to explore conversion to a charter school, all hell broke loose. No authority is provided by Florida statute 1002.33 or the department of education regulation 6A-6.0787 that would authorize the district or any of its administrators to participate or inject themselves into the application or ballet process. The first time the district is authorized to play a role in the process occurs when the application is submitted for decision.(FS1002.33(3)(b). Despite these restrictions, the district chose to maintain a very pronounced presence at NKC. For the next three months, two very senior district administrators (Ava Goldman, administrative director and Mr. Will Gordillo, Dr. Fernandez’ immediate supervisor)were on our school campus all day long, every day the school was in session. The reason given by the district for this was that these two extremely prominent administrators were there to answer any questions our staff had about converting to a charter school. Quite frankly, all of the questions our staff had were answered within the first 2-3 days of their stay on our campus. Given the high salaries those two officials were paid, it would be interesting to know how much taxpayers had to pay for their 3 month stay at one of the smallest schools in Miami-Dade County. Rightly or wrongly, the NKC staff viewed the daily attendance of two very senior district officials as an attempt to intimidate the staff. One day, while the students were still on campus, Ms. Ava Goldman knocked on my classroom door and said she needed to speak to me immediately. Ms. Goldman and I then spent the next 20 minutes standing right next to my closed classroom door while she asked me a series of questions. That year I had the most difficult and behaviorally challenged class of my 30 year career. The only staff person left in my classroom (while Ms. Goldman interviewed me) was my paraprofessional. As Ms. Goldman continued to question me, the volume of noise inside my classroom steadily increased. I heard a great deal of shouting, both from my paraprofessional and from my students. I also heard several crashes and other loud noises. Perhaps I am wrong, but I find it hard to imagine that Ms. Goldman could not also hear the chaos inside my classroom, as she was standing right next to me. At no time did she offer to continue her questioning after the students went home for the day. This is odd, because after spending her entire day at our campus for 3 months, she surely must have been aware of the fact that the entire staff had an hour long planning period every day after the students went home for the day. When I returned to my classroom after Ms. Goldman finished questioning me, my classroom was in a shambles, and my paraprofessional was extremely upset. Several tables and chairs were overturned and some expensive educational materials had been destroyed. Thankfully, none of my students were injured during my 20 minute instructional time conference with Ms. Goldman. If one or more of my students had been injured, I am wondering if Ms. Goldman would have assumed responsibility on my mandatory student injury report. Several other teachers also reported lengthy questioning by Ms. Goldman during instructional time. These teachers also felt that Ms. Goldman’s actions needlessly placed their students at risk for injury. Prior to NKC notifying the district of our intention to explore the option of converting to a charter school, Mr. Will Gordillo had visited our campus on perhaps a half dozen occasions, never staying for more than half a day. Ms. Goldman had never before visited our campus. Mr. Gordillo and Ms. Goldman were not the only high ranking district officials to visit our school during the next 3 months. On February 3, the day after the district was notified of the NKC decision to explore a charter school conversion, our campus was visited by several senior district officials, including a region director who said she was representing the assistant superintendent for school operations, the region superintendent, and Milagros Fornell, who is the associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and a member of the superintendent’s cabinet. The visits and the conversation included implied threats to Dr. Fernandez employment. For example, the region director on numerous occasions reminded Dr. Fernandez that he was “still an employee of the school district” repeatedly making this comment in the presence of the school’s assistant principal. In addition, Ms. Fornell also commented as to how “disappointed” she was regarding Dr. Fernandez recommendation for charter school status. The district instructed Dr. Fernandez to call a meeting of the NKC staff to discuss the charter school conversion. The meeting occurred on February 7, 2012. Approximately 15 high level administrators, including members of the superintendent’s cabinet, were present at the meeting Most of these officials had never been to NKC before. Staff members were given information by district officials that was contrary to FS 1002.33 regarding conversion to charter schools. In order to make an informed and intelligent decision regarding conversion to a charter school, staff needed to receive accurate and correct information from district officials. Although district officials had both a legal and moral duty to present the NKC staff with accurate and factual information, that simply did not happen. The information we received at that meeting contained numerous egregious errors. For example, district officials told NKC staff that conversion to a charter school would result in a total loss of federal funds. At the end of our first year of operations, as a charter school, the district told us we could expect to face a deficit of $1.25 million dollars. The figures drawn up by the administrators of NKC showed the school enjoying a surplus of $400 thousand dollars at the conclusion of our first year as a charter school. At my request (the writer of this blog) I received an extensive briefing by the NKC administrators on our revenues and expenditures as a charter school. I can therefore state that this $400 thousand dollar surplus was a very conservative estimate. Our actual surplus would probably have been significantly higher. The district officials also incorrectly stated that as a charter school, we would not be allowed to participate in the Florida Retirement System (FRS). School district officials also incorrectly stated that as a charter school, we would lose all of our health benefits. Finally we were incorrectly told that as a charter school, we could not expect the district to cover the cost of transporting our students to and from school via bus. The district’s information was so grossly inaccurate that a reasonable person would conclude that they were either totally incompetent or deliberately lying to us. To make matters worse, neither Dr. Fernandez or Mr. Cristobol was given an opportunity to speak at this meeting, so they were unable to correct these numerous serious mistakes. As a result, NKC staff left that meeting with grossly inaccurate information. As a member of the NKC staff at that time, I can state that the information dispensed at that meeting was HUGELY instrumental in convincing staff that conversion to a charter school was not economically viable. On February 9, 2012, Dr. Fernandez sent an email to his immediate supervisor, Mr. Will Gordillo requesting that Mr. Gordillo forward a memorandum to Ms. Judith Marte, chief budget officer titled “funding sources for charter schools, legal requirements.” Ms. Marte sent Dr. Fernandez a response memorandum dated February 14, 2012 in which Ms. Marte provided inaccurate and incomplete information regarding the budget. The district instructed Dr. Fernandez to call a meeting of the parents of NKC students to discuss the conversion process. The meeting was held on February 16, 2012 and was controlled by administrators from the district. Much of the same incorrect information that was presented to NKC staff was repeated to NKC parents. Dr. Fernandez was in constant communication with district officials, and made numerous requests that correct information be provided to staff PRIOR to the conversion voting. The district provided some but not nearly all of the information requested. As a result, Dr. Fernandez notified his superiors that he was postponing the vote. the vote. On February 18, Dr. Fernandez received an email from Ms. Goldman ordering him to not conduct the voting. . This instruction from Ms. Goldman was in direct violation of Florida law and the Florida Administrative code that a) provides the applicant with the absolute right for one teacher and parent vote per year. b) requires that the school administrator conduct such votes c) assigns full responsibility and control of the overall application and ballot process to the applicant and the school administrator (FS1002.33 (6)7(b);F.A.C.6A-6.0787(1) On April 26, 2012 an investigator from the district’s Civilian Investigative Unit (CIU) sent a letter to certain NKC employees indicating that she had been assigned the task of investigating the allegation that Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol may have violated school board policies. The letter stated that this was “an open investigation, no other information can be provided at this time.” The recipients of the letter were “advised not to contact any subject(s) or witnesses, with the intent to interfere with the investigation…”. On April 23, Ms. Milagros Fornell appeared in Dr. Fernandez office at NKC around 2:20 PM. She served written notification to both Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol naming them the subject of an investigation for their efforts in attempting to influence the outcome of the vote for a proposed charter school conversion. The notification does not contend that Dr. Fernandez engaged in any unlawful activities in conjunction with an application to establish a charter school. Such contention and subsequent proof would be the only way that the district could cause Dr. Fernandez to lose his protected status under Florida law (FS1002.33 (4)(a)). The district also failed to comply with its own Personnel Investigative Model (PIM) which is subject to the district’s written policy. The notification provided to Dr. Fernandez led to an investigation that was to be conducted by the district’s Civilian Investigative Unit (CIU). According to the policy, the PIM was developed to ” address concerns and incorporate recommendations made by educational stakeholders to insure that district-initiated investigations are completed with objectivity, fairness and with a FULL APPRECIATION OF OUR EMPLOYEES RIGHTS; (emphasis added) while maintaining the legal integrity of the investigative process.” The district violated Dr. Fernandez right to directly or indirectly participate in an application for charter status as guaranteed by Florida charter school law.(FS1002.33(4)(a)(2011)) According to the policy, the PIM is “designed to provide a more transparent process for conducting investigations. It is intended to respect and enhance the Due Process rights of district employees and provide uniformity to the recommendations for DISCIPLINARY ACTION. (emphasis added) A “disciplinary action” for participating in a charter application process is a direct violation of FS1002.33(4)(a). On April 24, Julio Miranda, an auditor from the district’s audit department , accompanied by a district investigator, arrived unannounced at the school. . These district officials reiterated the districts claims against Dr. Fernandez and served him with a letter dated April 20,2012 signed by Mr. Miranda containing allegations concerning the investigation. The letter “prohibited” Dr. Fernandez from contacting any complaintant(s) or witnesses. The identity of the adverse witnesses and the accusers that Dr. Fernandez was not to contact was withheld from Dr. Fernandez. On May 18,2012, Dr. Fernandez was summoned to Ms. Fornell’s office. Ms. Fornell gave Dr. Fernandez a “Reappointment Recommendation” form for him to sign. In the form, Ms. Goldman and Ms. Fornell recommended “Reappointment SUBJECT TO RESOLUTIOMN OF PENDING ISSUES….” On June 8,2012 Ms. Ana Rasco from the Office of Professional Standards caused the issuance of a letter to Dr. Fernandez confirming the substance of the meeting in Ms. Fornell’s office concerning Dr. Fernandez reappointment “subject to the resolution of pending issues.” On June 26, Ms. Rasco caused the issuance of a letter informing Dr. Fernandez that the outcome of the investigation conducted by the CIU had resulted in a finding of probable cause against Dr. Fernandez for the violation of enumerated district policies. The violations of protective status, adverse actions and the unlawful reprisal detailed above have all occurred since the district was notified of the efforts of NKC to explore charter status and consider conversion charter in accord with Florida law. The district’s unlawful actions and the unlawful reprisal were a direct and proximate result of the lawful actions of Dr. Fernandez , NKC employees, and parents on behalf of NKC students and their families as they sought to explore conversion charter status for the school. On May2, Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol were summoned to the District office where each was issued a directive entitled “terms and conditions of an alternate assignment The directive issued the two NKC administrators to remove themselves from Neva King Cooper School and stripped them of their responsibilities as administrators of NKC. Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol were reassigned to menial tasks elsewhere in the school district that amounted to “changes and duties or responsibilities that [were] inconsistent with the employees salary or employment clarification.” FS1002.33(4)(a) In addition, they were ordered not to contact, visit, or engage in any type of communication with staff, parents, community members, or witnesses to the pending investigation. The adverse transfer and reassignment took effect immediately. Readers wishing to delve further into this case can do so by going to www.floridadoah.org and clicking on case Florida DOAH 13-1492, as mentioned above. The penalties both Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol paid for their heroic attempt to defend profoundly mentally handicapped children who literally cannot speak for themselves may move you to tears. On May 2, 2012, with a little over a month remaining in the school year, BOTH our administrators were removed from our school, even though both administrators were ENORMOUSLY popular with parents, staff, PTA, and all other relevant NKC stakeholders, causing needless hardship at the school. It is highly unusual to remove even one, let alone both administrators prior to the end of a school year. The obvious question is why Mr. Carvalho simply did not wait until the end of the school year, and very quietly exile them at that time? The reason given by Mr. Carvalho was that he (Mr. Carvalho) had been told by anonymous sources that the NKC administrators were “attempting to intimidate NKC staff into voting for the charter school.” The two NKC administrators had been removed from our campus, and warned to have no further contact with NKC staff. Furthermore, there was very little chance of them ever returning to NKC, so “intimidated” NKC staff would not have to worry about any retaliation from the two exiled NKC administrators, should they choose to step forward and provide testimony about how they had been “intimidated.” When district representatives visited our campus to take statements from any NKC staff who had been intimidated by Dr. Fernandez and/or Mr. Cristobol, not a single NKC staff person reported any retaliation, or threats of retaliation from either NKC administrator. Had the district posed the question of whether NKC staff felt intimidated by the actions of the district over the preceding three months, nearly the entire staff would have stepped forward to lodge complaints against the district. Many other NKC staff and I felt it was highly hypocritical of the district to accuse our school administrators of intimidation when the CONSIDERABLE amount of intimidation came from the district against the NKC staff. Perhaps Mr. Carvalho chose not to wait until the end of the school year to remove our administrators because he wanted to send a strong warning to any other administrators contemplating exercising their legal right to convert to a charter school. Shortly after removing Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol, Mr. Carvalho paid a very brief visit to the NKC campus. It was the only time he has ever visited our campus. He stood in the school office, and in the presence of our school secretaries, who are still at NKC and can verify his words, he said “If any school wants to convert to a charter school, they are going to have to come through me.” If Mr. Carvalho’s purpose in making this statement was to terrify and intimidate the NKC staff, his statement (which swept through our school like a wildfire) had the desired effect. The staff of NKC , rightly or wrongly, has the opinion that Mr. Carvalho views NKC as a rebellious and conquered entity that needs to be punished. Dr. Fernandez was the principal of our school for 15 years, so a baseline exists as to staff turnover during that period. My hope is that Federal, and state education bureaucrats, as well as UTD and labor lawyers will compare staff turnover at NKC when Dr.Alberto Fernandez was the NKC principal and Mr. Cristobol was the assistant principal and compare it with staff turnover after Dr. Tracy Roos (principal) and Alicia Fernandez (assistant principal ) came to NKC. The opinion of a great many NKC staff is that both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez are deliberately cultivating a hostile work environment and a climate of fear at NKC. These investigators might wish to to invite staff who have recently retired from NKC or transferred to other schools to provide statements as to why they are no longer at NKC. Investigators probably will hear many horror stories of threats, intimidation, and outright false allegations made by BOTH of these new NKC administrators against NKC staff. As a result of the actions by BOTH Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez, morale at NKC was the lowest it has been during my 25 year tenure at that school. For this reason, it might be helpful for investigators to closely examine the yearly mandatory staff satisfaction surveys that all NKC staff fill out. It would be informative to examine how the NKC staff have rated their interactions with Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez. This could then be compared to how staff have rated their interactions with Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol in previous years. A sizable discrepancy between these two scores would indicate a serious problem, especially if the NKC staff seemed happy with Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol, and unhappy with Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez. Investigators might also want to examine parents levels of satisfaction with these two groups of NKC administrators. If both parents and staff exhibited significantly higher levels of satisfaction with Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol, state or federal investigators might want to consider recommending removing Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez from their posts as NKC administrators, and replacing them with Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol. It might be prudent for federal and state investigative bodies to exclude MDCPS from participating in an examination of wrongdoing within the school system, as a conflict of interest appears to exist. Rightly or wrongly, many MDCPS employees believe that the investigative bodies of the nation’s fourth largest school district owe their jobs to Mr. Carvalho, and their function seems to be to protect Mr. Carvalho and to sweep any and all wrongdoing by the district under the rug, and then retaliate and punish whistleblowers. Consequently, MDCPS employees who are reluctant to bring their concerns to the district may be more willing to talk to state and federal authorities, provided those authorities do not allow retaliation to occur once the investigation is completed. Perhaps the federal and state educational authorities might want to widen their search to involve the entire MDCPS system. Additional county- wide problems they may wish to investigate should include topics such as: Are whistleblowers within the system being silenced/intimidated by accusing them of physically abusing students , sexually molesting students or cheating on the high stakes achievement tests that are given every year? These investigators might also check to see if Mr. Carvalho is in compliance with state and federal statutes. They might also ask if any other MDCPS schools that have attempted to convert to a charter school have been unlawfully punished. Another area of concern investigators might want to examine is the dramatic increase in test scores on the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA) that have occurred since Dr. Roos came to NKC. Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the principal of NKC for 15 years, so a baseline of student achievement on the FAA exists That baseline can be compared to the startling jump in achievement under Dr. Roos. When Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the NKC principal, he took the precaution of removing himself entirely from the FAA, and placing Ondina Rodriguez the Program Specialist at NKC in charge of the FAA. Dr. Roos chose to remove that safeguard and place the assistant principal. Ms. Alicia Fernandez in charge of the FAA. Another matter needing investigators’ attention is an allegation of unreported child abuse by Dr. Roos in the 2015-2016 school year. Allegedly, Mrs. Ramos, a paraprofessional currently employed at NKC, observed a teacher at NKC physically abuse a child. Ms. Ramos allegedly reported this abuse to Dr. Roos, who is obligated by law to report this abuse or permanently lose her educator credentials. Dr. Roos allegedly failed to report this possible child abuse, and merely transferred the child to another class. It should be relatively easy for investigators to question Mrs. Ramos to see if she reported a case of possible child abuse to Dr. Roos. If Dr. Roos then failed to take appropriate action, the proper penalty should be applied. Another matter to investigate involves an allegation that Dr. Roos allegedly physically assaulted one of the emplyees at NKC. Allegedly, this employee was in Dr. Roos office and Dr. Roos was allegedly screaming and verbally abusing this person. This person was looking down at the floor. Dr. Roos allegedly seized this person’s jaw and screamed, “look at me when I am talking to you.” If an employee did that to an administrator, termination and legal action would probably occur. The district says it has a zero tolerance for bullying. Does this zero tolerance also apply to an administrator who allegedly physically assaults an employee? This person is no longer at NKC (imagine that). However, this person is still a MDCPS employee. If he or she is assured that MDCPS will not retaliate against him or her, perhaps he or she will be willing to come forth and testify. Yet another matter that UTD might want to address is who is responsible for loading and unloading unruly students on and off of school buses in the morning and in the afternoon. There was an incident where a staff member who extracted an unruly student out of a vehicle (the student did not want to exit the vehicle) was accused by the administrator of using excessive force. Although the entire staff witnessed this extraction, and nobody else saw any evidence of excessive force being used, the employee was in danger of having possibly career ending charges leveled against him. Therefore, if the contract calls for unruly students to be escorted on and off busses SOLELY by administrators, can UTD please inform NKC administrators of this, and then enforce this provision of the contract? Another question investigators might ask is how many state or federal lawsuits have been lodged against this school system. Still another question is how many employees have been unlawfully terminated. If the investigative bodies find a culture of pervasive corruption at MDCPS, perhaps they might consider relieving the superintendent of his position, and making MDCPS investigative bodies more transparent, receptive to, and accepting of feedback from employees, and responsible for enforcing state and federal laws, as opposed to the will of the superintendent. Still another question that might be asked is why is it illegal for taxpayers or school board employees to criticize school board members by name at school board meetings? A citizen can go to a meeting of any other civic body and criticize by name the President of the United States, US Senators, or state governors, but a citizen cannot criticize a school board member by name! Why is this? Is MDCPS a part of the United States? If so, does the US Constitution also apply to MDCPS? If so, does one of the amendments of the Bill of Rights guarantee the right of free speech? If the findings of an investigation warrants it, perhaps state and Federal funds can be cut off from MDCPS until it agrees to abide by state and Federal laws. Many school board employees refer to MDCPS as “the People’s Republic”, because although Mr. Carvalho accepts both state and Federal funds, he gives the appearance of thumbing his nose at both Florida state laws and Federal laws, and seems to suffer no adverse consequences, even when he is caught in a flagrant violation of the law. An example of this would be Mr. Carvalho’s decision to remove the two NKC administrators after they began to explore their legal option to convert to a charter school. Mr. Carvalho’s actions constituted unlawful reprisal and abuse of authority. That is not the opinion of the writer of this blog, it is the verdict rendered by the judge who heard the case that Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol brought against MDCPS. In his verdict, the judge noted that MDCPS had been flagrant and blatant in its breaking of the law. Incredibly, Mr. Carvalho suffered no adverse consequences whatsoever as a result of his nakedly illegal actions. Although Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol expressed their desire to return to their duties as NKC administrators, and although staff and parents were also strongly supportive of these two administrators returning to NKC, Mr. Carvalho had no legal obligation to return them to NKC, and refused to do so. They were reassigned to other posts within the school system. The closest thing to an adverse consequence that Mr. Carvalho suffered as a result of his willful, blatant, and flagrant breaking of the law was that the taxpayers of MDCPS had to pay $250,000 for the legal expenses of Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol. Does this mean that if another MDCPS school is foolish enough to attempt to exercise their legal right to attempt to convert to a charter school that Mr. Carvalho could again use blatantly illegal practices to smash that attempt, with no adverse consequences to himself? The answer to that question appears to be a resounding “YES.” A law that has no adverse consequences for breaking it is not really a law. It is a plea or a suggestion. Anyone who drives an automobile knows what is required of them when they come to a red, eight sided sign with the letters S-T-O-P on it. Failure to obey this law will result in a steep fine, and points charged against the offender’s drivers license. If the steepest penalty for failure to stop at a stop sign was a stern disapproving frown from a policeman, how many people would continue to obey this law?
In June 2015, I retired from MDCPS, after a 30 year career with the school system. One of my biggest reasons for retiring at this time was because both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez had cultivated an extremely toxic and stressful work environment at NKC I very much wanted to participate in the financially lucrative DROP program. Had I transferred to another school, I could have participated in DROP. However, a school board employee gives up a great deal of his/her Constitutional right to free speech as an employed school board employee. (A retired school board employee regains his/her Constitutional right to free speech.) I saw many illegal things being done by both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez One of those actions was so grave that I felt that the lives of profoundly mentally retarded children, most of whom literally cannot speak for themselves were being needlessly put at risk. (This will be discussed later in the blog). I had the option of bringing the matter up before a MDCPS investigative body, but I feared this would result in no action at all, with the exception of retaliation against the whistleblower. By retiring, I could not be retaliated against or silenced, and I (wrongly) assumed the chances of my being heard would be increased. On June 8, 2015, I wrote a 16 page letter to 5 senior MDCPS officials. A copy of that letter will be included as a part of this blog. The letter was sent to Dr. Larry Feldman (school board member), Ms. Perla Tabares Hantman (school board member), Dr. Martha Perez (school board member) Barbara Mendizabal, (Region Superintendent) and Dr. David More (Assistant Superintendent). I mailed those 5 letters via the U.S. Postal Service, and I have retained the receipt. All 5 letters were delivered to the addressee. Most (but not all) of the remainder of this blog will address issues that these 5 people have been aware of for 18 months now, and no action appears to have been taken. As one of my concerns dealt with an immediate threat to the lives of one or more profoundly mentally retarded children, a reasonable person might expect a response from at least one of these 5 prominent officials. Sadly, not a single person chose to respond to the serious issues raised in that letter, or even to acknowledge that they had received that letter. That is the reason for this blog. Since MDCPS either cannot or will not take appropriate action unprodded, there is the possibility that appropriate action will take place if enough pressure is exerted from powerful outside forces. For this reason, I give permission for anyone reading this blog to copy part or all of it and distribute it to any other party that might be interested.
There were serious problems with Dr. Roos almost from the start. Every student in MDCPS (even the profoundly mentally handicapped) is given an achievement test in the spring. Special needs children are given a test called the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA). When Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the principal, he instructed staff that no cheating on the test would be tolerated, even if it caused our school to receive a failing grade for the year. Students were given credit for correct answers only when they provided correct responses. Dr. Roos seemed to have a different idea. She summoned two very meek and timid teachers to her office who had already administered the test and allegedly told those two teachers that their students performance levels were unacceptably low, and she then allegedly ordered those two teachers to administer the test to their students a second time. Dr. Roos then allegedly cautioned those two teachers that if their students performed poorly on the FAA a second time, those teachers would receive a failing yearly evaluation, and dismissed as employees. If Dr. Roos made this statement, it put these teachers into a Catch-22 position. Cheating on the FAA is grounds for dismissal, yet failure to cheat on the test would also result in dismissal. If Dr. Roos made this statement, she broke two laws. 1)The FAA is given a second time only under very clearly described conditions, and poor performance on the test is not one of those conditions. 2) At the time Dr. Roos allegedly made that statement, an administrator was not allowed to fail a teacher on the yearly evaluation because of poor student performance on the FAA, nor was the administrator allowed to threaten to fail a teacher based on poor student performance on this test. Word of this alleged threat spread through the school very quickly. The two teachers Dr. Roos allegedly threatened were Luz Morales (no longer at NKC) and Julie Besherat. Ms. Besherat is still at NKC. She is an outstanding teacher with an unblemished record. Two years ago, she was the NKC teacher of the year. Ms. Besherat has had no contact whatsoever with the writer of this blog since this writer’s retirement. She also has played no part whatsoever in the creation of this blog. Should “the People’s Republic” contemplate retaliation against Ms. Besherat because her name appears in this blog, the negative public relations created by that action will hopefully make the cost of retaliation against her too high. Ms. Luz Morales confided to some colleagues that Dr. Roos had asked her to cheat on the FAA. One of the people Ms. Morales made this statement to was the writer of this blog. Later, Dr. Roos wrote Ms. Morales up on very serious charges and recommended that Ms. Morales be dismissed as a MDCPS employee. Ms. Morales was then fired. She appealed her dismissal, and a judge ruled that her dismissal was invalid and ordered her to be reinstated at a different school. Ms. Luz Morales case number is FL. DOAH 145-2439, should readers have a further interest. The district called not a single witness to defend their improper dismissal of Ms. Morales. By the time Ms. Morales was ordered to be reinstated, she had been unemployed for nearly a year and in desperate economic straits. The judge recommended that Ms. Morales be paid the full amount of money she had lost due to her inappropriate dismissal. The school district, perhaps being aware of Ms. Morales desperate need for immediate funds, told her they (the district) would pay her half of her salary immediately with the understanding that she would then forfeit the other half of her salary. The alternative was to fight a second court battle (which she would have almost certainly won) for the entire amount. This would mean Ms. Morales would receive none of the money she was entitled to for a very long period of time. This district delaying tactic had the appearance to many NKC staff of being very mean spirited and it furthered the belief that Mr. Carvalho was/is singling out NKC for punishment because of our lawful decision to explore converting to a charter school. 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 NKC 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 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 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 Corp. presented NKC with a check for $50,000 for Smart boards in every classroom at NKC, and although Mrs. Martinez and Ryder Corp 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 Corp. have provided free turkeys 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 enraged by the ULS 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 3)The difference between city, state, and national governments 4)Animal food chains and the interdependence and interconnectedness of flora and fauna, 4) The chemical composition of the air we breathe 5) The chemical interactions that cause fire to reduce a piece of wood to ashes. 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 make 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 braches 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 (also 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 stuents had not mastered these concepts. One day Mrs. Alicia Fernandez 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 witnesses are present the disliked staff are spoken to pleasantly and politely.) This has gone on 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 to 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 atomosphere 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) that “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 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 have asked Mrs. Fernandez is “What’s 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 contained in this blogger 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 trouble makers and often falsely accused of potentially career ending offenses. That 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 chidren.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 writer will refer to as Grace (not her real name) caught my attention. Grace was one of the highest functioning students who attended our school. Grace caught my attention because she had an untied shoelace and this writer was concerned that she might trip and hurt herself. This writer had never met a profoundly mentally retarded student capable of tying her/his own shoelace. So this writer bent down to tie Grace’s shoelace for her. At this point, Grace became extremely agitated. “No”, she shouted, and pushed this writer 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 writer 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 writer changed places and she became the teacher and this writer became the student. Grace taught me 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 spentthousands of dollars of his own money fighting off manufactured potentially career ending charges against him.
The general public, who may not know much about the FAA, 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 question and the child has three choices to choose from. (The majority of profoundly mentally handicapped (PMH) students do not look at the test book, and make no choice) If the child makes the correct choice, he or 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 or 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 or 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 made not a single independent choice, and 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 a 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 he/she is “touch aversive” (the child does not like to be touched and feels threatened and becomes defensive if touched). Many NKC student are touch aversive, and attempt to jerk their hand away if the teacher attempts to place their hand on the correct answer. At “the Peoples 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 of Florida administrators at schools for PMH students to either develop achievement tests appropriate for those students, or to grant PMH students a waiver from that test have gone unheeded for many years.
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 may say “Point to the fork.” It is possible that Dr. Roos may attempt to explain the dramatic improvement in student test performance on the FAA at NKC by saying that Dr. Roos has instructed teachers to bring in actual objects that correspond to the three objects. The teacher has an actual comb, hat, and fork in front of the student when the child is asked 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 since Dr. Roos became the principal. 2) Starting last year, PMH 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 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 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 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 takes these student struggles personally, and we are careful to use the minimum amount of restraint needed to escort unwilling students on or off buses. 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 or cause them to retire or to seek transfers to other schools. 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, this NKC employee 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). 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 said she refused to be a party to charges that were blatant lies. 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 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 NKC since Dr. Tracy Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez became 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 transferred 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 restroom 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, I can say that he was falselycharged 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 IEP. (In a previous year, this young man was a student in this bloggers class. During the course of that school year, this young man also experienced a few brief choking incidents while a member of this blog writer’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 mealtimes. 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 Peoples 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 KNC, 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 Peoples Republic” of NKC would a teacher’s prompt and effective actions to save the life of a choking child be twisted and perverted into a charge 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.) (This blogger is including that letter as an addendum to this blog.) 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 existed 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, another minute 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 this 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 was (note past tense) also an NKC staff member 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. Regrettably, Mr. Lozada is no longer a teacher at NKC. He transferred to another school. To quote from the letter that this blogger sent EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO ( a year and a half ago) “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 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 blog writer’s letter of 18 months ago, this blogger suggested three 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! Another suggestion was that all NKC staff be trained yearly in CPR (and possibly awarded master plan points for completing this course. ) When Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the extremely competent principal of NKC, this lifesaving training was provided to staff every year. To this blogger’s knowledge, Dr. Roos has never provided staff an opportunity for this training. This blogger’s third suggestion was that Superintendent Carvalho address a written memo to NKC staff promising 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. 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 the 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 COMPLETELY 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 to a conversion request 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 lengthy quote from the June 8, 2015 letter, that same letter contained an in-depth description of the charges this 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, this 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 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 re-establish 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, 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.
During my last year of employment at NKC, Dr. Roos asked this blogger to write a letter urging parents to join the school PTA. . This blogger submitted a draft of that letter to Dr. Roos who read the letter, APPROVED IT, and told this blogger to give the letter to the school secretary to type up. The letter was then sent home to the parents of our students. Dr. Roos then received an “anonymous” telephone call, stating that it was illegal to send letters concerning PTA business on a paper containing the school letterhead. (Dr. Roos has a pattern of receiving “anonymous” phone calls just before initiating disciplinary action against NKC staff). Dr. Roos summoned me to a meeting in her office. Present at that meeting was this blogger, Dr. Roos, Mrs. Fernandez, and one other teacher. While that other teacher was present in the room, Dr. Roos was jovial, polite, and courteous. When that teacher was dismissed from the meeting, both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez became hostile, confrontational, and very loud, but not loud enough to risk being overheard by the school secretary just outside the door. Dr. Roos began asking this blogger personal questions that were none of her business (such as was this blogger having contact with either Dr. Alberto Fernandez or Mr. Cristobol in his off duty hours) Dr. Roos then informed this blogger of the obscure rule that this blogger had violated by sending a school letterhead paper with PTA business on it. Dr. Roos then told this blogger that since he had broken a rule, a disciplinary letter would be placed in this bloggers personnel file! A teacher would not be expected to know of this obscure rule, but a school principal with a PhD might be reasonably expected to be aware of this rule. Furthermore, Dr. Roos had read the letter, approved it, and told this blogger to have it typed up for dispersal. If this blogger had failed to obey Dr. Roos directive, this blogger would have been a candidate for disciplinary action for insubordination. Many NKC staff believe that both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez deliberately create Catch-22 situations, where a staff member is subject to disciplinary action no matter what he or she does. Dr. Roos, Mrs. Fernandez and this blogger had THREE meetings concerning this PTA letter. At all three meetings, both administrators asked me private, inappropriate questions and shouted at me and were extremely disrespectful. Unknown to me, a friend of mine who is a powerful person told some downtown district officials what was happening to me. He or she then made a few phone calls and Dr. Roos was summoned to a meeting where Dr. Roos was told she would apologize to me and not place a letter of reprimand into my personnel file. At that meeting, Dr. Roos promised there would be no reprisals aginst this blogger, a promise she did not honor. Many former or present NKC staff members, this blogger included went or go to work every day, fearful that Dr. Roos or Mrs. Fernandez will bring serious charges against them based on complete falsehoods. Examples of this include the teacher who allegedly cheated on the FAA. This teacher told this blogger that when he (the accused teacher) read the report Mrs. Fernandez wrote about the incident, the report contained several statements that were complete fabrications. Another example was a report Dr. Roos wrote up, concerning an alleged confrontation between Dr. Roos and Mrs Luz Morales. Ms. Morales had received a letter informing her she would soon be terminated, and giving the date of her termination. Ms. Morales went to Dr. Roos office, and asked if the termination date was correct. Ms. Morales told this blogger that Dr. Roos then wrote a report stating that Ms. Morales was shouting, confrontational, and threatening during this very brief meeting. Although this blogger has no doubt that a great deal of shouting occurred during that meeting, it is highly unlikely that shouting came from Ms. Morales! Ms. Morales told this blogger that Dr. Roos report of Ms. Morales alleged confrontation was a total falsehood. This blogger has known Ms. Morales for 25 years. Ms. Morales is a very quiet and polite person, and extremely unlikely to have had a confrontational meeting with Dr. Roos. Yet another example is the statements Dr. Roos allegedly made about both her actions and this blogger’s actions (concerning the PTA letter this blogger wrote ) at the meeting where she was ordered to apologize to me. A participant at that meeting recounted several statements to this blogger that Dr. Roos allegedly made at that meeting. If Dr. Roos made those statements, they were all wholly false.
After this blogger retired from NKC, my wife informed me that she made it a point to not speak to me for an hour after this blogger came home from work, to give me time to decompress. This blogger experienced two kinds of days at NKC. This blogger had bad days and very bad days. A bad day was when this blogger felt very frustrated because the new curriculum greatly reduced learning at the school. Addditionally, every single day, this blogger went to work with a huge knot in his stomach, wondering if he would be accused of a serious or even career ending offense, based partially or wholly on total falsehoods. A very bad day was a day where in addition to these fears and frustrations, this blogger was the victim of a screaming tirade by one or both NKC administrators. This blogger suspects that the majority of NKC staff also experience only bad and very bad days. In “the People’s Republic” of NKC,The staff’s mission statement has been perverted from “How can I maximize my students’ learning?” to “How can I avoid being set up for false charges that could result in my termination?”
On April 6, 2015, this blogger, knowing he was going to retire in two months, finally felt safe enough to send Dr. Roos a two page memo where he respectfully asked that at all future meetings involving this blogger and both NKC administrators also involve the UTD school representative, Mr. Darwin Brown at those meetings. That memo is included in the addendum at the end of this blog. For the remainder of the school year, this blogger was spoken to by NKC administrators with courtesy and respect, but ONLY because the UTD representative was present. To give readers an idea of the level of fear that exists at NKC, this blogger had previously been the NKC union steward for 10 years, and it wasn’t until the last two months of his employment that this blogger felt safe enough to insist that his employers observe US labor laws that forbid the systematic terrorizing of employees by their employers. During this bloggers last year at NKC, he was approached by MANY NKC staff members who requested that this blogger not speak to them whenever either Dr. Roos or Mrs. Fernandez was present, as my co-workers stated they feared they would become victims of administrative retaliation if they associated with “one of the bad people.” Everyone at NKC knew that “the bad people” were those staff members who were in favor of exploring the possibility of converting to a charter school.
The ULS curriculum requires teachers to test their stuents at both the beginning and end of the month. The students are asked the same questions on both these tests to measure how much learning has occurred during the month. These tests cannot be taken by a blind person. This blogger had a student who was both blind and unable to use her arms ( which were encased in heavy metal braces). Therefore, she could not point to the correct answer. One day, Mrs. Fernandez used her masterkey to enter this blogger’s classroom. My paraprofessional was on her lunch break, so Mrs. Fernandez began screaming at me. Mrs. Fernandez was enraged because this student had scored zeros on both her pretest and post test, every single month. Mrs. Fernandez demanded to know why this was occurring. When this blogger explained why, Mrs. Fernandez, in a very patronizing and exasperated voice sreamed at me that in the future, this blogger was to look at the direction this sightless student’s eyes seemed to be pointed to. If the student’s sightless eyes seemed to be pointing toward the correct answer, the student was to be given credit for a correct answer! This blogger, fearing a charge of insubordination, said nothing, What this blogger wanted to say was that very seldom was this student’s head turned in the general direction of the test questions. This blogger feared the consequences if he failed to obey this thinly disguised order to cheat on the test in the following year. In the bizarro world of “the People’s Republic” of NKC, failure to cheat on the ULS test could result in this blogger being falsely charged with cheating on the FAA! Fortunately, this blogger retired a few weeks later, and did not have to worry about this.
As a union steward, this blogger noticed a steep uptick in both the number of administrators’ violations of school board employee rights and the severity of those violations after Mr. Carvalho became the school superintendent. Administrators became more brazen in their violations of the contract because it became apparent that staff were reporting those violations less and less frequently, and even when administrators were found to have seriously violated staff members contractual rights, those administartors received at best only a slap on the wrist. This check on administrative abuse of power is now so broken that some administrators now feel safe to allegedly physically assault school staff. It’s a vicious circle. Administrators feel free to take increasingly brazen and draconian reprisals against school staff because they know that school staff are unlikely to report these violations. School board employees are afraid to report administrators abuse of employee rights because they correctly assume that the district’s investigative bodies will always find the administrators to be not guilty, no matter how overwhelming the evidence is against that administrator. The district’s investigative body will then look the other way as the absolved administrator then takes unlawful reprisals against the employee who reported those administrator(s). The system is badly broken. It is no longer a level playing field. This blogger calls on labor law lawyers, UTD, and Florida and Federal educational authorities to set up systems that are not run and controlled by “the People’s Republic” of MDCPS, where employees can report abuses without fear of unlawful reprisals. This blogger also asks that labor law lawyers, UTD, and Florida and Federal educational authorites investigate both the entire MPCPS system and NKC to investigate alleged unlawful administrative practices. MDCPS says it has a zero toreance for bullying. Perhaps it is time for that zero tolerance to include administrative bullying of school board employees. This blogger will shortly end the first part of his blog. This blogger will end his description of Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez questionable activities at NKC NOT because that list has been exhausted, but because the blogger believes the reader now has an accurate description of what goes on in “the People’s Republic of NKC. The second part of this blog will consist of a posting of four documents this blogger has presented to the administrators of either NKC or MDCPS. Here is a listing of actions this blogger would like the proper authorities to consider.
- Send a memo to all MDCPS staff from the proper authority stating that in the future, due diligence in the proper execution of duties will not result in disciplinary action being taken against MDCPS staff.
- Allow all NKC staff to be trained in CPR. It would be nice if master plan points could be offered for successful completion of this activity.
- Allow labor law lawyers, UTD, and state and Federal authorities to conduct a county wide audit of MDCPS to determine if state and federal laws are being observed.
- Allow NKC staff to choose the curriculum used to instruct NKC students, subject to district approval.
- Reinstate Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Henny Cristobol as the NKC administrators.
- Pay the summer school salary of the NKC employee who was denied that employment, if it is determined he was improperly denied that employment.
- Pay Luz Morales the remainder of the salary she was denied when she was improperly terminated.
- If Mr. Carvalho, Dr. Roos, Mrs. Fernandez are found to have violated one or more statutes, the proper legal penalties need to be imposed.
- Allow audience members of school board meetings to criticize school board members by name.
- Either create a new FAA test appropriate for PMH students, or grant them a waiver of exemption from that testing.
- If the contract states that loading or unloading unruly students from buses is the sole responsibility of administrators, that rule needs to be enforced at every school in the county.
- Allow state and/or Federal authorities to examine NKC test results of the FAA for the last 5 years to see if cheating has occurred.
- Allow state and Federal authorities to determine whether Ms. Ramos observed an instance of a teacher allegedly physically abusing a child in the 2015-2016 school year at NKC, and reported it to Dr. Roos. It should then be investigated whether Dr. Roos followed the proper procedures for a case of reported possible child abuse.
- If it is the wish of that employee, state and Federal authorities should be allowed to interview the employee who was allegedly physically assaulted by Dr. Roos. Other NKC staff should also be asked if Dr. Roos or Mrs. Fernandez allegedly physically assaulted them.
State and Federal authorities should be allowed to establish how many state and Federal lawsuits have been filed against MDCPS in recent years, and how many district employees have been unlawfully terminated.
Part Two: Additional Documents This Blogger Sent To NKC or MDCPS Administrators
This is a copy of the letter I sent to three school board members, and two high ranking members of Miami Dade Schools Public Schools on June 8, 2015. Dear __________, Hello. My name is Bill Detzner, employee #146782. I have been an Exceptional Student Education teacher for 30 years. I have spent the last 25 years at Neva King Cooper Educational Center, a center for Profoundly Mentally Handicapped children. In my 30 year career, I have never lodged a complaint to any school district official higher than my school site administrator. I am writing to you today in regard to my principal. Dr. Tracy Roos. Dr. Roos has been the principal of my school for the last 3 years. Officials from United Teachers of Dade (UTD) and my school site UTD union steward have conducted many meetings with Dr. Roos in a vain attempt to improve the strained relationship Dr. Roos has had with her staff for the 3 years she has been here. Dr. Roos has cultivated a climate of deep fear, mistrust, and intimidation between herself and her staff. Staff members complain that they come to work every day in fear that Dr. Roos will lodge employment threatening charges against them based on anonymous phone calls Dr. Roos says she has received. Three common staff complaints are: 1) Dr. Roos becomes extremely hostile and retaliatory to any staff member who approaches Dr. Roos with concerns about our school. 2) Dr. Roos does not have uniform expectations for all staff members. Some staff members are allowed great latitude when they fail to observe school board rules or fail to treat other staff members in a professional manner. Staff members who report the misdeeds of their fellow staff members to Dr. Roos are held to a very low standard of professional conduct. Staff members who have fallen out of favor with Dr. Roos are written up for tiny infractions, often based on anonymous phone calls or other anonymous sources. 3) Both Dr. Roos and the assistant principal, Mrs. Alicia Fernandez treat the staff in an extremely disrespectful manner, often resorting to screaming at staff and asking staff members highly personal and inappropriate questions about their personal lives. The inappropriate questions about a staff member’s personal life happen in meetings conducted in Dr. Roos office (with both administrators present) when a staff member is accused of an infraction. During these meetings, Dr. Roos shouts at the staff member and treats them in a disrespectful manner. In my case, I was summoned 3 times to Dr. Roos office for stormy, confrontational, shouting meetings regarding a letter I wrote (at the request of Dr. Roos) urging parents to join our school PTA. Dr. Roos approved my letter and told me to give it to the school secretary to type up and send home with students. After the letter was sent home, Dr. Roos received one of her many famous anonymous phone calls telling her that the PTA letter was illegal due to the fact that it contained the school’s letterhead. During one of the 3 meetings she had with me about the PTA letter, Dr. Roos shouted at me that she wanted to know if I was in contact with Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Henny Cristobol (the previous administrators of NKC) in my off duty hours. Although I felt that what I do during my off duty hours is none of Dr. Roos business, and had nothing to do with a PTA letter I wrote, I did not want to be accused of insubordination, so I truthfully answered Dr. Roos inappropriate question. I did so because there were 2 administrators in that room and I had no witness present. Dr. Roos has been known to make untruthful statements concerning what staff members say during these meetings with no non-administrator witnesses present. For example, Ms. Luz Morales (more about her later) had received a letter telling her (Luz) that she was to be terminated from her job in 2 days time. Mrs. Morales felt she was in a Catch-22 situation. She felt that if she carried out the instructions of the letter (not to report to work after 2 more days) and the letter was in error, Dr. Roos would accuse Ms. Morales of abandoning her post and fire her. So Ms. Morales went to Dr. Roos office and asked if the instructions in the letter were accurate. Dr. Roos then wrote a report stating that Ms. Morales was shouting, confrontational, and threatening during this very brief meeting. I have known Ms. Morales for 25 years. She is by nature a very timid, mousey, and polite woman. However, Ms. Morales had no witness present to contradict Dr. Roos statement. I want to stress a few other points about my 3 stormy meetings with Dr. Roos regarding the PTA letter. Dr. Roos had threatened to place a disciplinary letter in my personnel file for writing the PTA letter(that she asked me to write, and then inspected and approved). This follows a pattern that has occurred with several other staff members. A few months prior to the PTA letter, I had engaded in a protected activity, which is supposed to protect me from retaliation. My protected activity was to obey a court summons and testify in court on behalf of Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Henny Cristobol. who were appealing their removal from Neva King Cooper School (NKC) for attempting to convert NKC to a charter school. (The court ruled that they had suffered unjust reprisal from the district.) Based on the fact that Dr. Roos was 1) questioning me about whether or not I was in contact with Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol 2) threatening to place a disciplinary letter in my file, I am wondering if Dr. Roos was attempting to retaliate against me for engaging in a protected activity. I am also curious as to who the anonymous phone call came from. A teacher could not reasonably be expected to know that a letter pertaining to PTA business cannot be written on a school letterhead. However it would be reasonable to expect a school administrator to know this. I would also note that as has been done to other staff members, the penalty Dr. Roos attempted to assign me (a letter in my personnel file) seemed excessively harsh. The proposed letter of reprimand never occurred, due to the intervention of Mrs. Kayla Martinez (our PTA president) (more on her later)At a meeting between Dr. Roos, Kayla Martinez, some district level PTA officials, Dr. Roos stated that I would not receive this letter of reprimand. Fearing that Dr. Roos might do something else to punish me for this letter, Mrs. Martinez asked Dr. Roos to state at this meeting that no further disciplinary action would be taken against me as a result of the PTA letter. I would like to cite another disciplinary measure taken as a result of a strategically timed anonymous phone call to Dr. Roos. One of the paraprofessionals at my school is a woman named Zenaida Castellanos. While Ms. Castellanos was assisting the teacher (Mr. Massa) in his classroom, Dr. Roos accused Mr. Massa of engaging in behavior that could potentially end his career. Ms. Castellanos was summoned to Dr. Roos office and asked if she (Ms. Castellanos) had observed Mr. Massa engaging in this prohibited behavior. Ms. Castellanos says that when she told Dr. Roos that she (Ms. Castellanos) had not seen Mr. Massa engaging in this prohibited activity, Dr. Roos became very upset and began berating Ms. Castellanos. This behavior is very puzzling to me. I always thought that the role of an administrator is to be an impartial gatherer of facts, not a person who attempts to pressure subordinates into saying things that meet the administrator’s agenda and goals. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Roos received a timely anonymous phone call that accused the 3 staff members of classroom 18 (Mr. Brown (who is also our UTD union steward) Ms. Deya, and Ms. Castellanos) of hitting a student with a ruler to discipline this student. Ms. Deya, who has been a paraprofessional at our schoolfor 26 years and has an unblemished record became so upset that she retired at the end of the school year. Mr. Brown (paraprofessional of the year for the entire school district several years ago) and Ms. Castellanos also have unblemished records. I have worked with Ms. Castellanos and I can say that striking a student with a ruler is COMPLETELY out of character for her. When a student misbehaves, Ms. Castellanos sole disciplinary tactic (which she uses quite effectively) is to use a very stern voice to tell the student the appropriate behavior that is expected of him/her. If any charges have been filed against Ms. Castellanos as a result of this anonymous phone call, it could possibly be viewed as retaliation against Ms. Castellanos for failing to implicate Mr. Massa in behavior that Ms. Castellanos did not observe him doing. I am asking the 5 readers of this letter to investigate whether charges have been filed against Ms. Castellanos, Ms. Deya, and Mr. Brown and what the status of those charges are. Mr. Massa has charges pending against him for being alone in a bathroom with a male student for very brief periods of time. (The parents of this young man are vigorously defending Mr. Massa.) I can see 2 possible scenarios for Mr. Massa’s actions. 1) Some of our ambulatory (i.e. able to walk on their own) male students wear diapers. In my own case, to insure the privacy and dignity of my diaper wearing ambulatory male students, I go into the bathroom contained within my classroom and I close the door and I am alone with this male student while I change his diaper. I have done this for the 25 years I have been at Neva King Cooper School. Both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez have seen me do this and have never corrected me or told me that what I am doing is inappropriate. My guess is that most or all of the male teachers at my school also do this. The only other alternative is to change these male students in the classroom in front of female staff and students. 2) Perhaps Mr. Massa had an urgent need to urinate. The student that Mr. Massa is accused of taking into the bathroom (for very brief periods of time) is an extremely destructive young man.This young man had already destroyed a Smartboard inside the classroom costing several thousand dollars. Given the fact that the paraprofessional assigned to Mr. Massa at that time (this was the paraprofessional he had before Ms. Castellanos was assigned to his class) has extremely modest disciplinary skills, Mr. Massa felt it necessary to take this student into the bathroom to prevent the student from destroying a second Smartboard. Perhaps Dr. Roos will say that it is permissible to be alone in a bathroom with a male student to change a diaper, but not to take care of a teacher’s need to urinate. This seems to be splitting a very fine hair. Even if this is the case, never in the 25 years I have been at Neva King Cooper School (NKC) has an administrator ever said that a teacher cannot urinate in the presence of a student. If Mr. Massa is facing charges for urinating in a bathroom in view of a male student, that would mean NKC has rules that no other school in Miami-Dade County has. In elementary, middle and high schools throughout the county, every day male teachers urinate side by side with students in school restrooms. If these male teachers are not facing charges, Why is Mr. Massa facing charges? (for trying to protect his Smartboard) If I were to be asked if I had ever “multitasked” and while changing a male student’s diaper in the bathroom I used the occasion to urinate, my answer would be that in view of the charges Mr. Massa is facing, I would have to plead the fifth amendment. Finally, Mr. Massa has been told he cannot teach summer school until the charges against him are cleared up. However, if Mr. Massa is facing charges for urinating in the presence of a student and other male teachers who do the same thing on a daily basis are NOT facing charges, this would seem to be discriminatory against Mr. Massa. If this is the case, and Mr. Massa is denied summer school employment, would he then be entitled to summer school wages, based upon the fact that he was unfairly discriminated against? Is it possible that these charges against Mr. Massa can be investigated and dismissed in time for him to secure summer school employment at NKC? Would it be possible for the 5 readers of this letter to investigate this matter? Neva King Cooper has a patron saint. Her name is Kayla Martinez. As an employee of Ryder (a Fortune 500 company)Kayla and the Ryder Corp. have sponsored a massive Christmas party for the children of our school for over 10 years. Ryder is so impressed with NKC that the company CEO has been coming in person for several years to attend our Christmas party, along with Miami Heat cheerleaders and Bernie, the University of Miami mascot. Each child in the school is given a sack of carefully chosen gifts. At Thanksgiving, Kayla and the Ryder Corp. present needy NKC families with free turkeys. A few years ago, Kayla and the Ryder Corp. presented NKC with a 5 figure check to install Smartboards in every classroom in our school. Kayla is the kind of patron that most schools can only dream of having. Astonishingly, Dr. Roos has treated Kayla very shabbily. For example, last fall at our school’s annual Back To School night, Dr. Roos denied Kayla access to the school to attend the meeting. At that meeting, Kayla had wanted to run for president of our school PTA. To most school principals, having a person such as Kayla as PTA president would have been wonderful and welcome news. Regrettably, Dr. Roos has chosen to attempt to block Kayla from continuing to perform her (Kayla’s) numerous acts of kindness. that so enrich the lives of our students. Kayla felt so stymied by Dr. Roos that she (Kayla) had to enlist the help of the district PTA officials just to schedule a PTA election of officers meeting. Kayla easily won this election, and now serves as our school PTA president. Kayla then set forth an ambitious proposed program of PTA fund raising activities. The proceeds of these fundraisers were to be used to purchase materials to help NKC children to improve the quality of their lives. To the dismay of the NKC staff, Dr. Roos is continuing to do everything in her (Dr. Roos) power to prevent Kayla from becoming the outstanding PTA president that she has the potential of becoming. The greatest fear many NKC staff members have is that Kayla will take her HUGE heart and boundless talent and energy to another school . If this happens, the lives of our students will become much poorer.
The most important point I want to make in this letter is that during the 3 years Dr. Roos has been our principal, NKC has deteriorated from a place of collaboration and cooperation between administration and faculty to a place where the administration appears to view the faculty as adversaries and enemies. When staff discuss Dr. Roos, the most frequently used term used to describe her is the word bully. This is counterproductive, because a wealth of professional research indicates that student learning and achievement is maximized when administration and faculty work cooperatively. NKC has mutated. The staff’s mission statement has changed from “How can I maximize my students’ learning?” to ” How can I avoid being set up for charges that could result in my dismissal?” Over the last three years, many of the most talented staff have left NKC. Many of them cite a hostile work environment deliberately cultivated by Dr. Roos as the reason for them transferring to another school. These teachers and paraprofessionals who have been transferred have been replaced by relatively new and inexperienced teachers and paraprofessionals (who are hard working, dedicated, and eager to learn) but nevertheless, relatively inexperienced. One of the greatest dangers that our students face is the danger of choking to death on the food they eat at breakfast and lunch. Our students have very low IQ’s (25 and below) and they do not have a sense of danger. They are not aware that putting massive amounts of food into their mouths can result in their deaths. Staff monitor students very closely at mealtimes, but if another student suffers a seizure, or a behavioral outburst (events that happen quite frequently at our school) the staffs’ attention is diverted and a choking incident can occur. Recently, Mr. Massa, one of our best teachers and a man with a 35 year spotless record experienced a brief choking incident [involving one of Mr. Massa’s students.] Mr. Massa acted quickly and the student dislodged the food that was blocking his airways. Rather than being praised for his effective and proactive actions, Mr. Massa was presented with charges having the potential of ending his employment. [Gross neglect of a child] This has resulted in a climate of fear among our staff. If a student begins to choke, a relatively new and inexperienced staff member may hesitate for a few seconds before summoning help from our on-site nursing staff. The staff member may hesitate hoping that the student spontaneously ejects the food and that the administrator has not observed this event. The staff member may hesitate for a few seconds fearing that his/her job is at stake (in a dismal job market and economy) Those few seconds 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. I am sorry that I brought up this incident in BOTH of the letters I am sending to you, but the mixture of many new and inexperienced staff coupled with a staff fear of administrative reprisals could result in one or more of our students suffering from permanent brain damage or even death if this issue is not dealt with as quickly as possible. Staff need to know that if they act with due diligence, they will not be charged if a student experiences a choking incident.
Rightly or wrongly, many of the staff members are of the opinion that Dr. Roos is out to “get” them. For example, Ms. Luz Morales, a former department head for over 10 years and a former teacher of the year award winner with 28 years of unblemished service was terminated for a single lapse of judgment. A court overturned Ms. Morales termination and ordered her reinstated with full payment of wages for the entire school year. The perception among staff has changed. It used to be: “If I make even a small mistake, Dr. Roos will twist the facts to where I could get fired.” The new staff perception is: “If Dr. Roos wants to get rid of me, she will (in violation of the law) tell blatant lies about incidents that never occurred.” Here are 2 examples of what appear to be blatant lies told by the administration. 1) Mr. Massa was accused of cheating on the Florida Alternative Assessment (FAA) by supplying a student with test answers. Mrs. Fernandez, the assistant principal says she observed stray marks in the testing materials when she observed Mr. Massa administering this test. However, the student being tested was so deeply intellectually handicapped that even had Mr. Massa shouted out the correct test answers, the student would have been unable to benefit from this. It is difficult to see why Mr. Massa would have attempted to cheat with this student when Mr. Massa knew his student was too intellectually disabled to benefit from this alleged cheating. Mrs. Fernandez is also aware that this student could not benefit from the alleged cheating. Many staff members have expressed extreme astonishment over the fact that Mrs. Fernandez (an extremely assertive woman) hastily exited Mr. Massa’s class without bothering to ask him a single question about the stray marks she found in those testing materials. Although Mrs. Fernandez did not give Mr. Massa an opportunity to explain himself, Mrs. Fernandez did not hesitate to write up charges against Mr. Massa that could result in his dismissal. It should be mentioned that prior to Mr. Massa receiving those testing materials, they were stored in Mrs. Fernandez office. It is an amazing coincidence that Mr. Massa was charged with the same offense he had previously charged Dr. Roos with; cheating on the FAA. Many staff members are wondering if this is a “tit for tat” retaliation by Dr. Roos. 2) Dr. Roos claims to have received an anonymous phone call that accused Mr. Brown, Ms. Castellanos, and Ms. Deya of using a ruler to discipline a student in their class. As I have discussed this incident earlier in this letter, I will note that it seems wholly out of character for any of these three people to have done such a thing and I would again urge the 5 readers of this letter to investigate whether charges have been placed against one or more of these people based on an anonymous phone call to Dr. Roos.
Many staff members are asking why so many faculty members , some of them with 20-30+ years of unblemished service are now facing very serious charges since Dr. Roos became the principal of NKC.
Dr. Roos seems to be under siege from many different sources. My understanding is that Ms. Morales is in the process of filing a level three grievance (through UTD) against Dr. Roos for wrongful termination of employment. The parents of an NKC student are contemplating a lawsuit against Dr. Roos for violation of the terms of the child’s IEP after that child was removed from Mr. Massa’s class (and put into the class of a teacher who was later terminated for being drunk during school hours.) Kayla Martinez, our PTA president, has numerous serious complaints about Dr. Roos. Many of the significant stakeholders of NKC (parents, PTA officers, and PTA members and faculty) are of the opinion that Dr. Roos is not a good fit as the principal of NKC. We respect the fact that decisions regarding the status of principals is a district level decision. Having said that, in view of the many serious and alienating mistakes Dr. Roos has made, we are asking the district to consider whether the needs of NKC students would best be served with a different principal.
Dr. Roos came to our school after our previous administrators, Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Henny Cristobol explored the possibility of converting NKC into a charter school and were removed by the district as a result of this conversion attempt. A court later ruled that these administrators suffered unlawful reprisal. Although on paper the law states that a school staff can explore the possibility of converting to a charter school without being retaliated against, the reality is that the law provides no penalties for school officials who retaliate against staff who attempt to exercise this option. Shortly after our two former administrators suffered unlawful reprisal and were removed from our campus, the superintendent of schools, Mr. Alberto Carvalho, paid a visit to our campus (the only time he has visited our campus) He stood in our school’s office and with our school secretaries as witnesses, he stated that any Miami-Dade County Public School that wanted to convert to a charter school would have to go through him. Based on Mr. Carvalho’s statement and Dr. Roos actions over the last 3 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 3 years is intimidation, that goal has been achieved. Our staff feels deeply intimidated by the district. The NKC staff COMPLETELY abandoned the idea of converting to a charter school 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 a district response to a conversion request 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.
I am sending this letter to the 5 district officials named because I want to give you a chance to address these issues before I go to the media and the Florida Department of Education. Sincerely, Bill Detzner
Copies of these two letters have been sent to Dr. Larry Feldman, Ms. Perla Tabares Hantman, Barbara Mendizabal, Dr. David More, Dr. Martha Perez
Bill Detzner/ 7722 S.W. 99 St./ Miami, Fl 33156
This is a letter I sent to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, informing him of this blog. This letter was sent in late April, 2017. Dear Superintendent Carvalho, Hello, my name is Bill Detzner, employee 146782. I am a retired teacher. I taught for 30 years in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS). I spent the last 25 years of my career at Neva King Cooper(NKC), a center for severely/profoundly mentally retarded students. I wish to discuss three issues with you in this letter. On June 8, 2015, I mailed a 16 page letter to Dr. Larry Feldman, Ms. Perla Tabares Hantman, Dr. Martha Perez, Dr. David More, and Ms. Barbara Mendizabal. (I have kept the receipt to prove these five officials received this letter.) In this letter, I identified several instances of alleged mismanagement by the NKC principal, Dr. Tracy Roos. My biggest concern and the first issue I wish to discuss with you was/is that the lives of severely/profoundly mentally retarded students are needlessly being put at risk. Two very simple and easily implemented actions would greatly reduce the danger these students have been needlessly exposed to. (I will discuss these two actions later on in this letter.) I was not at all surprised when none of the five people I sent the letter to responded. Several of my colleagues who have sent criticisms of the way MDCPS conducts its affairs have also received no response to their inquiries. I was keenly disappointed and alarmed by the fact that a year and a half later, no steps have been taken to safeguard the lives of severely/profoundly mentally retarded children. This is inexcusable. During the 2014-2015 school year, a young man (who has it written on his IEP that he is at risk for choking on his food) began to choke on his lunch. The Heinlich maneuver was quickly administered to this young man and the young man promptly ejected the food and resumed eating his lunch. The young man never lost consciousness and appeared to suffer no adverse reactions other than a red face. As the entire student body of our school eats lunch at the same time, many staff members observed this event. The consensus of the NKC staff is that this teacher’s actions were proactive and heroic. To the horror and astonishment of the staff, Dr. Tracy Roos, the NKC principal, wrote this teacher up on possibly career ending charges. (These charges were later dismissed due to insufficient evidence.) This has had a chilling effect on the NKC staff. Staff members fear that if one of their students begin to choke, one or both of the current NKC administrators may press potentially career ending charges against that staff member, even if that staff member practiced due diligence, and took prompt and corrective action. For this reason, fearing their job may be at stake, if a student begins to choke, the staff member may initially hesitate to notify NKC administrators. When the human brain is deprived of oxygen, every second is precious. If a staff member were to wait just thirty seconds to notify NKC administrators of a choking incident, it could mean the difference between life and death for a severely/profoundly mentally retarded child. Our school has a staff of nurses on site. These nurses are compassionate and competent, but their expertise appears to be in the areas of tube feeding and administering medication, not rescuing people who are not breathing. I say this because during my time at NKC, there were 3 incidents where a person stopped breathing on our school campus. Two of those incidents involved students who choked on their food. The other incident involved a staff member who suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing. In all 3 of these incidents, these 3 lives were saved not by the actions of our school nurses, but by a staff member who trained at the fire academy and rode ambulances on the weekends. In one of the choking incidents, it took this highly trained professional nearly 3 minutes to clear the food from the child’s air passages. Regrettably, this staff member is one of the many people who have transferred out of NKC after Dr. Roos became the school principal. Under perfect conditions, (which rarely occur) an ambulance can reach our school in 3-5 minutes. When you add another 3 minutes it may take to remove the food the child has choked on, the 30 seconds the staff member may have waited to notify NKC administrators of the choking incident (for fear of possibly losing their jobs), can literally mean the difference between life and death for a severely/profoundly mentally retarded child. The two easily implemented steps that can greatly reduce the chances of an accidental choking death at NKC are: 1) Superintendent Carvalho might want to consider writing a memo to the staff of NKC stating that staff members who practice due diligence and act proactively will not have potentially career ending charges filed against them if one of their students experiences a choking incident. Mr. Carvalho would then need to honor this promise. 2) It would be very helpful if NKC staff were given annual training on emergency first aid procedures for a person who has stopped breathing. Perhaps master plan points could be awarded for successful completion of this course. When Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Henny Cristobol were the NKC administrators, this training was provided every year. I don’t think Dr. Tracy Roos has offered this training during the 5 years she has been the NKC principal. Over a year and a half ago, I appealed to top MDCPS officials as educators and humanitarians to take proactive measures to reduce a grave danger to severely/profoundly mentally retarded children. I received no response, and no action was taken, so I will try a different approach. Mr. Carvalho, if one or more severely/profoundly mentally retarded children chokes to death because easily implemented steps were not taken to safeguard them, the media will report this, and your prestige and reputation will suffer. For this reason, I am hoping you will see fit to implement steps to safeguard the lives of severely/profoundly mentally retarded children who literally cannot speak for themselves (and had nothing to do with the decision to explore converting to a charter school.) A second issue (that I previously discussed in great detail in my letter of June 8, 2015) involved an NKC staff member who faced several potentially career ending charges. It is difficult to imagine that not one of the five very senior MDCPS officials that I sent this letter to made you aware of this situation. A few months AFTER the June 8, 2015 letter was sent, this staff member, on very short notice, was summoned to a meeting. (His attorney was not allowed to attend this meeting.) This staff member was told that he had 2 options. His first option was to retire immediately. His second option was to be terminated. At the time this meeting was held, all of the serious charges were dismissed due to a lack of evidence. This staff member had only one very minor charge left unresolved. What this staff member was NOT told was that due to the minor nature of the remaining charge, he had a third option, which was to continue his teaching career. Fortunately for this staff member, his attorney made him aware of his third option. Superintendent Carvalho, given the fact that this termination meeting was held a few months AFTER five very senior MDCPS officials received this 16 page letter, it is very difficult to believe that this termination meeting was held without your knowledge and consent. I am sending you this certified letter in the hopes that it will stay your very heavy hand against further actions that appear to be retaliatory against this teacher who before he became an advocate for exploring conversion of a public school to a charter school had an unblemished record of over 30 years. Due to the fact that MDCPS self-policing bodies appear to function solely to protect the superintendent, sweep problems under the rug, and retaliate against whistleblowers, I have published a blog detailing what appears to be years of retaliation and mismanagement at NKC since the district illegally removed Dr.to Fernandez and Mr. Henny Cristobol as the NKC administrators. The blog can be accessed at www.bluehost.com. The title of my blog is Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center. Also possibly needed is mdcpsallegations.com The third issue I wish to discuss is the 14 possibly improper actions taken by MDCPS at NKC that I have listed in my blog. If Dr. Roos and/or Mrs. Alicia Fernandez are found to have violated one or more tenants of the UTD contract, or one or more state or Federal laws, it is only fair that the penalties levied against them be commensurate with the violation(s) they have committed. In my June 8, 2015, letter I warned that if MDCPS chose to ignore the issues raised in that letter, I would go public with my grievances. I have therefore sent letters to UTD and state of Florida and Federal educational authorities. Mr. Carvalho, MDCPS says it has a “zero tolerance for bullying.” Does that policy also apply to the superintendent of schools? Sincerely, Bill Detzner/ 7722 S.W. 99 St./ Miami,FL.33156
This is the letter I sent to UTD in April, 2017. Dear Karla Hernandez-Mats, Hello, my name is Bill Detzner, employee 146782. I taught special education in MDCPS for 30 years. I was the union steward at my school for 10 years. I taught at Neva King Copper (NKC), a center for severely/profoundly mentally retarded children). I retired in 2015, and I am a member of the retired chapter of UTD. During the 2011-2012 school year, my school announced its intention to explore the possibility of converting to a charter school. This decision was met with great resistance from senior officials of MDCPS. Prior to the end of the 2011-2012 school year, MDCPS district officials illegally transferred both the principal, Dr. Alberto Fernandez and the assistant principal, Mr. Henny Cristobol from their posts as the NKC administrators. These school administrators appealed their dismissal in a court of law (case Florida DOAH 13-1492) and the legal decision was that MDCPS was guilty of unlawful reprisal and unlawful retaliation. Despite winning their case, MPCPS was not legally obligated to return these two fine administrators to NKC, and declined to do so. Shortly after the district illegally removed our two school site administrators, Superintendent Carvalho paid a very brief visit (his only visit) to our school. In front of witnesses who still work at NKC, Mr. Carvalho stated, “If any school wants to convert to a charter school, they are going to have to come through me.” The staff of NKC interpreted this statement as a thinly veiled threat, and for the past several years, the NKC staff have suffered many actions that appear to be retaliatory in nature. As Florida law clearly states, school staff who explore converting to a charter school cannot be retaliated against. Here are some of the actions that both Dr. Tracy Roos ,the present NKC principal, and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez , the assistant principal have done that appear to be either illegal or retaliatory in nature. Also, as Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez appear to target staff members who are not UTD members for what appear to be their most egregious violations of federal labor law, UTD might want to consider inviting one or more labor lawyers to investigate the actions of the two NKC administrators. For example, one day Dr. Roos summoned a non-UTD staff member to her(Dr. Roos) office for a conference. During the conference, Dr. Roos allegedly began to shout at the staff member. The staff member bowed his/her head and stared at the floor. Dr. Roos allegedly used her hand to seize the staff member’s jaw and allegedly jerked the staff member’s hand up until the staff member was looking into Dr. Roos eyes. Dr. Roos then allegedly shouted “Look at me when I am speaking to you.” Shortly afterwards, this staff member transferred to another school. This staff member did not report this incident because there is a strong belief at NKC that the self-policing bodies of MDCPS exist only to protect administrators and that abuses that are reported will be swept under the rug and the whistleblower retaliated against. When I engaged in supposedly protected activities such as answering two subpoenas to testify in court on behalf of MDCPS employees and when I testified at an investigation to determine possible cheating by Dr. Roos on the Florida Alternative Assessment, several of my NKC colleagues warned me not to testify, as my testimony would be ignored and I would then be retaliated against. Afterwards, I did indeed experience administrative actions that I perceived to be retaliatory in nature. As I am a member of the retired chapter of UTD, I would be more than happy to testify to UTD about actions by both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez that I perceived to be retaliatory for engaging in protected activities. The staff member whose jaw was allegedly seized by Dr. Roos is still a MDCPS employee. If UTD or labor law authorities will guarantee that he/she will not be retaliated against, perhaps this person will be willing to step forward and tell what happened to him/her. If UTD and/or labor law authorities visit the NKC campus (and on bended knee, I am BEGGING UTD to visit NKC and invite staff members to share the experiences they have had with Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez.) Also, as NKC has experienced an extremely high staff turnover rate since Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez have been the NKC administrators, UTD and/or labor law authorities might want to consider inviting MDCPS employees who have transferred from NKC to other schools to share their experiences with Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez. UTD might want to ask if any other NKC staff are alleging that an NKC administrator had inappropriate bodily contact with them. Employees have a right to be protected from bodily assault from their employers. Employees have a right to be spoken to in a courteous and professional manner. At NKC, courtesy and respect seem to be a one way street. It is given at all times by the staff to the administration. Regrettably, the NKC administration seems to think that courtesy, respect, and refraining from shouting at staff needs to be done only when witnesses are present. Investigative visitors to the NKC campus may wish to ask staff if they are spoken to in a courteous, professional manner by NKC administrators. One staff member (who was a strong supporter of exploring the option of converting to a charter school and had a previously unblemished record of over 30 years) found himself/herself charged with several potentially career ending charges. These charges appear to have been made based on little or no evidence and indeed they were dismissed due to a lack of evidence. As this staff member has a pending case against MDCPS in both state and federal court, I cannot get into specifics . One day, on very short notice, this non-UTD member was summoned to a meeting with MDCPS officials and told he/she had the option of either retiring immediately or being terminated. Given the fact that all but a very minor offense had already been dismissed at the time of this meeting, labor law authorities might want to question MDCPS authorities as to why this meeting was held and why this staff member’s attorney was not allowed to attend that meeting. As a result of numerous potentially career ending charges based on seemingly scant evidence being filed by NKC administrators against one or more staff members, an atmosphere of tremendous fear exists at NKC. Speaking for myself, every day I reported for work, I feared I might have one or more career ending charges labeled against me. (If investigators are interested, I will be happy to share my experience of nearly having a disciplinary letter placed in my personnel file for a letter I wrote at the request of Dr. Roos that she read and approved and told me to give the letter to the school secretary for mass distribution to parents.) Another example of the pervasive atmosphere of fear at NKC is that prior to my retirement, I was approached by several colleagues, some of whom I have known for over 20 years and BEGGED by those colleagues to have no further contact with them, because the NKC administration viewed me as “one of the bad people” (I supported exploring the option of converting to a charter school.) and my colleagues feared retaliation by the NKC administration if they were seen talking to me. Another supporter of exploring converting to a charter school, Ms. Luz Morales, a UTD member, was illegally terminated as a MDCPS employee. She appealed her dismissal and won her court case. Although the judge recommended she be paid her entire yearly salary, MDCPS only offered her 50% of her yearly salary. As Ms. Morales was in desperate financial straits, she did not have the financial resources to sue for her full years salary. Her court case number is Florida DOAH 145-2439. Although I had previously been a UTD steward for 10 years and had an unblemished record of 30 years, my fear of reprisal and retaliation by Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez was so great that I waited until 2 months before my retirement to insist on my basic right to be spoken to by my administrators in a courteous, respectful, non-shouting manner. I am enclosing the letter that I wrote to Dr. Roos asking that my UTD steward be present in all future meetings between myself and both NKC administrators. In all subsequent meetings between myself and both NKC administrators, I was indeed spoken to in a courteous and professional manner. It is my belief that this happened only because my UTD steward was present at those meetings. If I had planned on returning to NKC the following year, I would not have felt safe enough to insist that I be spoken to in a professional and courteous manner by my administrators. I have published a blog where I discuss the events that have transpired at NKC over the last few years. It can be accessed at www.bluehost.com The title of my blog is Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center. Also possibly needed is mdcpsallegations.com In this blog, I have listed 14 things that I would like UTD and/or labor law authorities to investigate. I have heard many MDCPS administrators say that the best way for an administrator to get promoted is to screw up. A popular saying among MDCPS administrators is: “If you want to go up, you have to screw up.” If a UTD/labor law investigation of Mr. Carvalho, Dr. Roos, and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez determines wrongdoing on their part, it is my hope that UTD will insist on a penalty commensurate with their wrong doing. It is not enough to merely shuffle them off to another school or a non-school sit position (in the incredibly top heavy MDCPS bureaucracy) if their infraction merits a more severe penalty. I have additional written correspondence concerning my communications with NKC administrators and the seemingly abusive and retaliatory and illegal actions that happened to me during my employment at NKC that I have not included with this blog. I will be happy to share those additional materials with any investigative body that has an interest in them. Sincerely, Bill Detzner/7722 S.W. 99 St./Miami, FL. 33156
This is the memo I sent to Dr. Roos two months prior to my retirement, when I finally felt safe enough to insist that I be spoken to by Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez in a pleasant, courteous, non-shouting tone of voice April 6, 2015 Dear Dr. Roos, On three occasions last fall, you (Dr. Roos) called me into your office for meetings attended by yourself, myself (Mr. Detzner), and Mrs. Fernandez, the assistant principal of our school. The subject of our three meetings was a letter that you asked me to write urging parents to join our school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA). You inspected the letter I wrote and asked me to make a few minor changes, which I did. You then told me to give the corrected letter to the school secretary for mass distribution to the parents of our students. It was later discovered that a rule had been broken by sending out this letter on our school letterhead. At the beginning of the first of our three meetings regarding this matter, another teacher, (Peggie Getchell) was present. Dr. Roos conversation at this point was cordial and friendly. After Peggie Getchell was dismissed from the meeting, the only three people present were myself, and my two school site administrators. Dr. Roos became very unpleasant in the volume and tone of her voice and in her questions to me. At one point, Dr. Roos demanded that I tell her whether or not I was in contact with the previous administrators of the school (Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol) during my off duty hours. Although I felt that what I do in my off duty hours is my own personal business and although I felt that my private conversations with previous administrators have nothing to do with a PTA letter, I did not want to be accused of disrespect or insubordination, so I truthfully answered Dr, Roos question, although I felt it was a violation of my privacy. The other two meetings with my two school site administrators were equally unpleasant. Dr. Roos again was extremely confrontational and loud, telling me that since I authored a letter that she approved, I was in serious trouble and that an unfavorable letter would be placed in my personnel file regarding the PTA letter. For these reasons, I am requesting that my United Teachers of Dade union representative, Mr. Brown be present in any future meetings attended by myself and both my school site administrators. I am making this request in an effort to insure that any future meetings are conducted in a courteous and professional manner. I am also making this request because I fear I may be at risk for my school site administrators to accuse me of being disrespectful and/or insubordinate those meetings. Sincerely, Mr. Detzner
This is the letter I sent to both the Florida Department of Education, and the Federal Department of Education in Washington, D.C. I sent the letter in late April. The 2 letters are identical, except the Florida Dept. of Education letter ends with these words: The state of Florida is in the process of stripping the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) of its right to represent the educators of the nation’s fourth largest school system. If this effort is successful, situations such as the one described in this blog will become widespread throughout Miami Dade County Public Schools, (MDCPS) resulting in chaos and a greatly diminished quality of education provided by MDCPS. Recently, as a retired teacher, I received a letter from MDCPS citing a teacher shortage and asking if I was interested in resuming my career as a MDCPS teacher. If UTD is outlawed, the present teacher shortage will become much more acute and MDCPS may find its classrooms staffed by people who were rejected for employment by fast food restaurants.
Dear Dept. of Education, Hello. My name is Bill Detzner, employee number 146782. I worked as a special education teacher for 30 years in Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), the nation’s fourth largest school system. I worked for the last 25 years of my career at a school for severely/profoundly mentally retarded children, with IQ’s of 25 and below. The name of my school was Neva King Cooper (NKC). I retired in June 2015. The state of Florida has state laws that allow a public school to convert to a charter school. The state law stipulates that educators who exercise their legal right to convert from a public school to a charter school cannot be retaliated against. During the 2011-2012 school year, the principal of NKC, Dr. Alberto Fernandez and the assistant principal, Mr. Henny Cristobol introduced a motion to the school’s faculty council to explore the option of converting to a charter school. The motion was approved (I think by a unanimous vote). All hell broke loose when NKC notified MDCPS of this news. From February 2012 until the end of the school year 2 very high ranking MDCPS officials spent the entire day on the NKC campus. A series of meetings was held on our school campus with high ranking MDCPS officials who crunched the financial numbers to both the parents of our students and the staff of our school concerning the costs and benefits of converting to a charter school. Our school staff was told by MDCPS officials that converting to a charter school would be a financial disaster and that staff would lose all or nearly all of their fringe benefits. These figures were wildly inaccurate. Some people (myself included) wonder if the MDCPS officials presented our school staff with deliberately falsified information. In May of 2002, PRIOR to the end of the school year, MDCPS removed both Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol from our school. The reason MDCPS gave for the removal of our 2 school site administrators was that our administrators had allegedly been intimidating staff to support converting to a charter school. However, when the district provided an opportunity for staff to lodge complaints against this alleged intimidation from the NKC administrators, not a single staff member did so. Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol appealed their removal from NKC in court, (the case number is Florida DOAH 13-1492) and the legal decision was that MPCPS was guilty of unlawful reprisal and abuse of authority. Astonishingly, even though MDCPS was found guilty of wrong doing, MDCPS was not legally compelled to return these 2 administrators (held in high esteem by both NKC parents and staff) to their posts at NKC and declined to do so. Even more astonishing is the fact that although MDCPS was found guilty of wrong doing in their successful blocking of NKC converting from a public school to a charter school, the law provides for no legal penalties for school districts that choose to violate the law. This means that should another MDCPS school choose to exercise its legal right to convert from a public school to a charter school, MDCPS could once again brutally and blatantly violate the law with complete impunity, and crush that school, with no fear of legal penalties or adverse repercussions. Educators in MDCPS who witness wrong doing in their schools are forbidden to go to the media. Educators who violate this rule can be subject to severe penalties, including possible loss of employment. School board employees of MDCPS who witness wrong doing are supposed to report those incidents to the district’s self-policing bodies. There is a widespread perception among MDCPS employees that the district’s self-policing bodies exist to protect our school superintendent (Mr. Alberto Carvalho), and district and school site administrators. Another widespread perception is that the district’s self-policing bodies sweep problems under the rug and then retaliate against whistle blowers. An example of this happened at NKC. Every year, the severely/profoundly mentally retarded students of NKC (with IQ’s of 25 and below) are given a high stakes achievement test called the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA) This test has been given at NKC for many years, so a baseline exists as to the performance of NKC students over a period of several years. When Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the principal of NKC, students performed very poorly on this test every year. When Dr. Tracy Roos (the new principal of NKC) and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez (the new assistant principal of NKC) administered the FAA (for the last 5 years) the students of NKC exhibited astonishing gains. At great personal risk to themselves, 2 NKC teachers, Mr. Tebilio Diaz and Mr. Rick Massa forced MDCPS to open an investigation into possible cheating on the FAA by Dr. Roos. The MDCPS investigation dismissed the charges against Dr. Roos. Mr. Diaz, who is a member of the teachers’ union (United Teachers of Dade (UTD)), has not suffered significant retaliation.. Rick Massa, who is not a UTD member, shortly afterwards had several potentially career ending charges filed against him. All but one very minor charge were dropped due to a lack of evidence. Mr. Massa currently has court cases against MDCPS in both state and federal court. Some of the things MDCPS did to Mr. Massa appear to violate state of Florida or Federal labor laws. Another non-UTD former staff member of NKC was allegedly a victim of inappropriate bodily contact when Dr, Roos (during a conference with the victim in Dr. Roos’ office) allegedly used her (Dr. Roos) hand to seize the victim’s jaw and jerk the victim’s face upwards until the victim was maintaining eye contact with Dr. Roos who allegedly then shouted at the victim, “Look at me when I am talking to you.” The victim (perhaps fearing retaliation if he/she reported the incident to MDCPS self-policing bodies) never reported this incident. This individual transferred to another school and is still a MDCPS employee. If the educational authorities are willing to engage the services of one or more labor law attorneys who are able to provide protection against possible retaliation by MDCPS, it might be a good idea to investigate whether these 2 school board employees were the victims of violations of state of Florida or Federal labor laws. I am enclosing a copy of the on-line blog I have published with this letter. If additional input from further postings on the blog is desired, it can be accessed at www.bluehost.com . The name of my blog is Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center. You may also need mdcpsallegations.com In that blog is a list of 14 areas that the recipients of this letter might wish to investigate. MDCPS (the nation’s fourth largest school district) is a very dark and closed system. It accepts large sums of state of Florida and Federal money, yet it appears to not comply with state and Federal laws. Can the Department of Education bring some badly needed pressure on MDCPS and force it to open its doors and windows and let some sunshine in?