Thursday, May 8, 2014

Francesco Odysseus Portelos: Please Return To Your Class!

Let the word go out from south Brooklyn to the upper Bronx that the last major battle of the Edwars here in New York City has ended with a victory for the teacher. In a 109 page decision, the hearing officer assigned to decide Francesco's fate decided not only that he not only that he was a "highly effective" teacher that should not be fired, but stated clearly and for the record that he needs to be teaching kids again:
After two years of reassignment, it is important that Respondent be returned to the classroom.'

Francesco's strange and bizarre odyssey began with him as a member of the school's leadership committee, the SLT. It passed through unknown investigations and appearances in the newspapers before leading to removal, then reassignment, then reassignment again. Along the way, his Odyssey lead the entire city to face the realization that Bloomberg's DOE was still hiding teachers in "Rubber Rooms". It realized an independent investigative body that declined to substantiate charges of employee misconduct against him and witnessed the department move forward with dismissal charges for employee misconduct anyway. It made him a big star. And it morphed him into a lightening rod for defending educators.

It then lead to a hearing -itself its own Odyssey lasting more than five full months, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, leading to countless articles in the newspapers and posts throughout the blogosphere (including the support of the best union organizer the UFT has)- where, as he wrote today on his blog, he beat almost all of the thirty eight charges of employee misconduct against him.

At this point in this truncated history of Francesco Portelos, it may be a good idea to point out the absolutely obvious; that he has thus far beaten back every attempt to fire him and scare him into submission. He has done so with class, with dignity and, as his last controversy highlights (an official within the department actually had him arrested for writing satire on his blog), even a bit of humor.

He has come to be a thorn in the side to many, a folk hero to many more and has drafted the blueprint of how to defend yourself in this media-oriented world armed with nothing more than a smartphone, a mouth and a wifi connection.  As a UFT rep once told him, he broke rules they hadn't even thought of.  And though they may have take a run after him at some point in the future, the major question -of whether an unwritten policy that has been called "Accuse and Remove", which can take a teacher out of the classroom based solely on an accusation, can survive in this uber connected 21st century world where a teacher on the defense can learn the rules of the game and make sure that his name stays in the papers longer than the department has initially hoped- has been answered with a resounding no.

"Few men", wrote Homer, "can keep alive through a big serf to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind". Well Portelos, scrub that brine off. You've got a class to run.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Urban Ed. Don't think you and others didn't play a role. Your support was key.