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Does the Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year Represent the Education Profession Well?

Precious Symonette, a Creative Writing teacher at Miami Norland Senior High School, has been chosen as the 2017 Miami-Dade Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for Florida Teacher of the Year, which was ultimately awarded to Jessica Solano of Polk County.

Upon further review of her past actions, and past events at Norland, this award appears to be suspect.

Since the departure of Trevor Colestock in October 2013 due to Adobegate, and the resulting permanent closure of the Library Media Center, Norland’s school grade has steadily declined from an “A” to a “C” over the past three years; another casualty has been the school’s English Language Arts (ELA) performance over the past three years.

Per last week’s release of the school grades per the FLDOE, Norland barely remained a “C,” and the school’s ELA performance decreased from 29% to 25%.

More disturbing, Ms. Symonette signed a petition (filed on October 2, 2015, in Miami-Dade Civil Court; pages 325-28 of Notice of Filing Deposition) on September 11, 2013, to remove Mr. Colestock as UTD steward for his actions in uncovering cheating at Norland. She was one of thirty Norland employees (out of 180+) and one of twenty teachers (out of 100) to sign this petition, which was clearly retaliatory in nature.

Mr. Colestock heard about this cowardly action secondhand, and some teachers told him they refused to sign as they felt it was racially motivated. The breakdown of the signers on the last page seems to suggest so.

Out of five reasons given for these thirty errant employee’s reasoning was “Conflict of interest. Working with OIG and AG while also being a Steward.

Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart visited Norland on May 3, 2016, and congratulated Ms. Symonette for this award.

Commissioner Stewart said,

Ms. Symonette represents the education profession well, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to recognize her for her commitment to our state’s students.

Commissioner Stewart and the FLDOE knows about Adobegate, Mr. Colestock’s situation, and the fact Norland’s academic levels have been on the decline the past three years.

How is such a prestigious award conferred on someone like Ms. Symonette whose ELA department which has declining student achievement and who retaliates against whistle-blowers thereby backing cheating and cheaters?

She represents the education profession well? Probably just as well as Emmanuel Fleurantin and Brenda Muchnick, the known perpetrators of Adobegate.

To top it off, the United Teachers of Dade and the National Educators Association, who abandoned Mr. Colestock, lauded Ms. Symonette as a “superhero educator.” Declining ELA scores and siding with cheaters is what constitutes a superhero educator?

Mr. Colestock, who stood up and did the right thing by coming forward and paid a price by doing so, represents the education profession well and more so that any teacher at Norland can ever hope to do.

Fair-minded people may sharply disagree with Commissioner Stewart and conclude that Ms. Symonette, and the entire faculty and staff at Norland by virtue of not supporting Mr. Colestock, represents the education profession in Florida in the worst light possible and are the worst sort of teachers not worthy of teaching children.

How is it that Commissioner Stewart has not visited or commended Mr. Colestock for his actions, which are those of a superhero educator?

A reasonable person may assume that awarding a local Teacher of the Year award to Precious Symonette is obscene and the fact that the cowardly thirty signers of this petition collect a taxpayer subsidized salary and future retirement benefits is equally profane.

It is fitting that the Florida Teacher of the Year award went to someone worthy who actually had viable student achievement gains and represents their school and District in a positive light.