Freshwater Hearing Delay

| 75 Comments

John Freshwater’s termination hearing was scheduled to resume tomorrow, June 18, but it has been postponed. Two Board of Education members, Ian Watson and Jody Goetzman, were subpoenaed by R. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s attorney, but have refused to testify on the ground that if they testify in the hearing they’d have to recuse themselves from voting on the recommendation of the hearing referee. Hamilton has asked the Common Pleas Court in Knox County to compel their testimony and the judge has not yet ruled on that request.

I am reminded of James Hutton’s 1788 remark on the age of the earth:

The result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning - no prospect of an end.

And yes, I still have those 50 pages of notes on the two days in May in my backpack.

75 Comments

Do you think that Freshwater’s attorneys have been intentionally drawing out the trial?

After taking six months (so far) to make their case in an administrative hearing over employment, I think I’m ready to abandon the old adage and attribute to malice what could be explained by incompetence.

eric said:

Do you think that Freshwater’s attorneys have been intentionally drawing out the trial?

After taking six months (so far) to make their case in an administrative hearing over employment, I think I’m ready to abandon the old adage and attribute to malice what could be explained by incompetence.

You are talking about politico-religionists, those moral absolutists who would co-opt the state to impose their bizarre interpretation on the rest of us, using whatever moral relativist rationale they happen to think of.

Maybe the mantras work.

Location, location, location.

Deny, deny, deny.

Delay, delay, delay.

eric said:

Do you think that Freshwater’s attorneys have been intentionally drawing out the trial?

After taking six months (so far) to make their case in an administrative hearing over employment, I think I’m ready to abandon the old adage and attribute to malice what could be explained by incompetence.

It’s been 8 months – the hearing started in early October. No, I don’t think Hamilton is delaying merely for the sake of delaying. He’s trying to do several things at once. First, he’s putting on Freshwater’s defense, and attempting to do so on several quite different bases – administrative bungling; Freshwater didn’t do anything that everybody else wasn’t doing; Freshwater is an exemplary teacher; the family who brought the complaint is pursuing a vendetta against him; and there’s a conspiracy in the Board and administration (and now a bunch of Does) to get rid of him. Each those entail a (more or less) different set of witnesses to attempt to establish Hamilton’s point(s).

Second, it appears that in effect he’s doing discovery for the defense of the federal suit the Dennis family brought against him back in June of 2008.

Finally, he’s fighting a publicity battle, trying to get as much favorable testimony on the record and in the newspapers as possible in order to pressure the Board to settle.

The slow pace is exacerbated by the multiplicity of attorneys involved and the hassle of getting them all in the same place at the same time. There are the three main attorneys involved, the referee, Hamilton for Freshwater, and David Millstone for the Board. The there are also representatives from the law firms involved in the original federal suit, the Dennis’ personal attorney and Freshwater’s separate attorney for that suit. While I’m not sure the availability of the latter three is a governing variable in determining dates, they surely play a role.

A man’s job and career are at stake here, so I don’t think it’s completely problematic to afford him a full opportunity to defend himself. That’s what I’d want for myself should I be in that situation. Remember Rawls’ approach to building a moral society under a veil of ignorance: design it as though you don’t know what position you’ll occupy in it. That’s not a bad principle to start with.

RBH wrote:

Remember Rawls’ approach to building a moral society under a veil of ignorance: design it as though you don’t know what position you’ll occupy in it. That’s not a bad principle to start with.

I agree with everything else you say. At the risk of verging off topic, I have to say I have always found Rawls to be unpersuasive.

A better and more coherent approach in my view is that of Sen and Nussbaum: ask what bundle of goods (including political freedom) is required in a given cultural context to live a fully human existence.

By grounding values in actual human experience (rather than abstract and non-existent states of ignorance) we can also understand the instrumental purposes of many rights. Tenure and due process actually serve a purpose. They force school administrators/boards to fully consider a situation before making a decision. A situation where principals can just wave their hands and make teachers disappear is not one that will lead to better education-in fact it might lead to worse education.

Funny how the system of due process is taking months determining what any reasonable person could have figured out long ago. Freshwater is a militant fundamentalist willing to risk his teaching career in pursuit of pushing a religious dogma.

Enjoy.

If the two BofE members are compelled to testify, the school district should subpoena the remaining BofE members and ensure that no one can vote on the referee’s recommendation.

It would appear that you can add to your list of Hamilton’s goals, the goal of eliminating the possiblity of a binding vote after this is all over with.

A bit off topic, but it’s still about the schools, so a quick note about the (perpetually continuing) Texas BOE drama.

One of the bills that did make it out of the Texas legislature this year was a fairly reasonable one that would allow local school districts to use state funds to buy electronic versions of textbooks (instead of paper) for subjects that were changing quickly

I believe the original intent was to try to make it cheaper to get more current history into, well, current history classes. ( This goal I can sympathize with. In the 80’s I went to a high school “current events” class that still speculated that, with the Cuban missile crisis safely behind us, one day our country might be able to focus our energy on landing a man on the the moon )

Anyhow, then conservatives on the SBOE freaked, belatedly realizing that these texts would not be under direct control of the state textbook commissions, and school districts forward-thinking enough to use digital texts might use them to teach - gasp - actual science.

The horror!

So, now, conservative SBOE members are whipping up their bases to pressure governor Perry to veto the bill.

Fortunately, they are being mocked roundly, as they so richly deserve. (http://www.statesman.com/opinion/co[…]ks_edit.html)

Unfortunately, Perry has all the spine of a bowling ball, so the bill may very well be doomed.

RBH said: It’s been 8 months – the hearing started in early October. No, I don’t think Hamilton is delaying merely for the sake of delaying. He’s trying to do several things at once.

Okay, thanks for the response. The six months referred to Freshwater’s defense, which started in Jan. It seemed strange to me that the Board took two months and the defense is taking six+, with no sign of resting. However you’re right, Freshwater has more at stake than the board so that difference makes sense.

Remember Rawls’ approach to building a moral society under a veil of ignorance: design it as though you don’t know what position you’ll occupy in it. That’s not a bad principle to start with.

That’s a reasonable approach but it doesn’t result in everyone agreeing on what constitutes a good system. Take ten people and don’t tell them whether they’re the firer or firee, and they’ll likely come up with ten different answers as to how much time and how much public money should be spent to ensure a ‘fair hearing.’

Leaving Rawls aside, at present, the legislature of Ohio has decided on the standards of due process in cases of dismissal of tenured teachers. The relevant statute is here: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3319.16

In addition to this statute, the basic underlying premise of requiring a hearing prior to dismissal of a public employee who is not an employee at will is enshrined in Loudermill .

It should also be noted that the charges against Freshwater (physically harming a student, insubordination and willful violations of school district policies and Constitutional principles of separation of Church and State) would effectively bar Freshwater from farther employment as a public school teacher. For that matter, based on my very limited understanding of teacher licensing law, physically harming a student either willfully or through negligence could lead to a loss of a license.

The primary reason, as far as I can see that it is taking six months for Freshwater to put on a defense stems from the nature of the report completed by the HR firm hired by the District to investigate the allegations against Freshwater. That report interviewed as I recall over 30 people. Freshwater has the legal right to cross examine every single one of them and also to challenge the validity and impartiality of the investigation itself.

Currently, Governor Strickland has proposed making it more difficult to get tenure and easier to fire tenured teachers. At least one news report has used the example of Freshwater as a basis to justify the governor’s policy. It is not exactly clear to me how or why the proposed language would alter the current requirement for dismissing a tenured teacher. The current standard is:

The contract of any teacher employed by the board of education of any city, exempted village, local, county, or joint vocational school district may not be terminated except for gross inefficiency or immorality; for willful and persistent violations of reasonable regulations of the board of education; or for other good and just cause.

There’s a lot more that can be said about Strickland’s plan for merit pay and his call for the State itself (rather than local districts) to evaluate teachers and to base teacher pay on “merit” -which has yet to be defined-but that is probably a little too off topic.

I believe it is a mistake to believe that science education will be served in the state of Ohio by:

1. Weakening teacher tenure; 2. Paying science teachers on the basis of standardized test performance; 3. Having state evaluators evaluate teachers.

RBH, Your post is correct that one of the arguments the school board is making, for not testifying, is that they would have to recuse themselves. (I obtained a copy of the brief Millstone filed on Wednesday.)

The argument, though, that their brief depended on primarily was the claim that they had the right to quash the subpoenas from Hamilton.

Here’s the link to what I wrote about the board’s arguments:

“School Board Gives Reason for Not Complying With Subpoenas”

Something I found concerning about the brief was that it was signed by, instead of one attorney for the school board, two attorneys for the school board. I’m wondering if the school district is going to be double billed for legal costs from now on—or maybe it was just for this one time. The name of the second attorney is Brendan P. Kelley.

Not everything IS a bundle of goods, and it’s capitalist cultism to say everything is. Political freedom, in particular, is not some “good” to be priced, bought, sold, etc. And that whole paradigm is, if anything, more abstract and less commonsensical than Rawls’ veil of ignorance - which is very similar to, e.g., the instructions to a jury, it just so happens.

Unless, of course, you’re deeply religious and brainwashed in market fundamentalism, in which case your direct perceptions and reason have been replaced with an addiction to turning everything into a bundle of goods, of course, in which case, carry on :)

eric:

That criticism would make more sense if it were in fact shown that a system where people knew for a fact what roles they’d play in the system had a greater tendency to agree on what was fair - and that’s not the case where situations like that arise. You might get fewer than 10 different answers, technically but you’d also get people locked into them in a way you wouldn’t if a discussion was carried out before their roles were assigned.

Most of the lines of attack on Rawls have a conservative and usually a market fundamentalist grounding, at least so far. You don’t need Rawls or any other philosopher of the modern era for this perspective at all - the ancient Chinese story “Don’t throw stones from not-yours to yours” captures the idea perfectly.

I myself mostly deal with denialists who are not, in fact, conventionally religous. The dollar and capitalism and the magic of the market and the invisible hand are their superstitious intangible dogmas. And it’s not just climate denial - they are also very fond of denying evolution, if it’s evolution of resistance to DDT, say. Or bacterial resistance to antibiotics being scientifically related to promiscuous use in the meat industry.

And I am still unimpressed with, e.g., an earlier post on Panda’s Thumb that pretended it was an issue for the poster if the taxpayers were funding religion tinged science classes when the actual issue for them is that they want to de-fund science-only and religion-tinged education equally, because they regard everything except the Party approved funcitons of cops, courts and soldiers as being a luxury and a gift, and there is no commons and no society and no social goods and no mutual infrastructure and so on - because Mammon/Smith/Mises/Rand/Rothbard/Friedman or other deity or prophet says there isn’t.

Marion Delgado said:

Not everything IS a bundle of goods, and it’s capitalist cultism to say everything is. Political freedom, in particular, is not some “good” to be priced, bought, sold, etc. And that whole paradigm is, if anything, more abstract and less commonsensical than Rawls’ veil of ignorance - which is very similar to, e.g., the instructions to a jury, it just so happens.

Unless, of course, you’re deeply religious and brainwashed in market fundamentalism, in which case your direct perceptions and reason have been replaced with an addiction to turning everything into a bundle of goods, of course, in which case, carry on :)

If you are referring to Sen and Nussbuam as apologists for market fundamentalism, then you obviously haven’t bothered to read Sen and Nussbaum. That’s probably enough said for the here and now. I doubt its fair to turn a forum on the Freshwater case into a forum on theories of justice.

Marion,

Well, okay. I was really just saying that (for public policy) the ability to put oneself in the other person’s shoes/see their point of view does not guarantee agreement. Policy disagreement does not always stem from bias. Relevant to this case: (IMO) reasonable people can disagree about how far a school administration needs to go to ensure their hearing structure gives the accused a fair shake.

Reasonable people may disagree about what the law **should be**, but reasonable cannot disagree about what the current law **is**.

For that matter, the practical consequences of procedural and substantive due process do not lead to disagreement about the general principles, within the context of the U.S. Constitution.

Procedural due process with respect to public employees who have a property interest in their job requires the employer to follow the procedures specified in civil service rules, collective bargaining agreements and/or in relevant statutes. Substantive due process requires that in the process of doing so, the employer be genuinely committed to fairly considering **all** the evidence-both for and against the employee.

The State of Ohio has clearly defined these procedures with respect to tenured K-12 teachers. The teacher is specifically given the right to confront all accusers and witnesses in an adversarial hearing before the local Board of Education, in front of a neutral referee and to call witnesses of his or her own.

Does due process require that a hearing be before a Board? Obviously no-there could be other ways to do this. It could be before an panel of arbiters, or in front of the school principal. In higher ed it has always been considered to be before a panel of fellow faculty.

In addition to the property interest there is also a liberty interest-the ability to pursue one’s field of employment. You can lose your liberty by losing a license, or simply through damage to reputation by the nature of the termination itself. For example, a college professor or K-12 teacher who was terminated for sexual harassment would find it immensely difficult to get another teaching job. And that is why public employees who do not have a property interest in their job (e.g. are untenured or not covered by civil service rules) sometimes have a right to a hearing anyway if the basis for the termination is a reason that will interfere with liberty. And under some circumstances, even private sector at will employees may have similar rights.

Reasonable people may disagree about whether or not the public is best served by the government granting a property interest through tenure to K-12 teachers or any other public employee. Reasonable people may disagree with legal precedents that treat public employees differently than private employees. Reasonable people may disagree about how to interpret these rulings.

But reasonable cannot disagree about the widely accepted legal meaning of 1st, Fourth, Fifth and Fifteenth Amendment rights of tenured K-12 teachers. And reasonable cannot disagree about the legal standard of due process.

The reason this case is screwed up is not because of the law. This case is screwed up because the district bungled it.

Years and years ago the district should reasonably have done the following:

1. Issued clear written guidelines about use of the Tesla coil and informing all school personnel that it should never be used as a demonstration device on students; 2. Given clear, written guidelines as to the appropriate roles of teacher advisors of student clubs and provided special training for teachers advising religious or political clubs; 3. Provided clear, written guidelines for when one goes “beyond the curriculum” (which district policy apparently allows); 4. Provided clear guidelines about what may or may not be posted in the classrooms.

Then the district should have documented violations of these policies, given verbal and then written warnings for violation of these policies.

Had the district done this it would not have needed to hire an HR firm to interview 30 witnesses and it would not have lacked a record with which to document Freshwater’s alleged misconduct. Instead, the district is locked in a he said-he said knock down-drag out fight.

So don’t blame the U.S. Constitution for this and please spare me assertions about how reasonable people may disagree about the U.S. Constitution. I suppose reasonable people might disagree about waterboarding as well.

Yeah, it looks like it was the wink, the blind eye, and the aversion to conflict that got the school board in this mess in the first place. The guidelines may well have been in place, but not followed by either party. I just hope other school boards learn from what could be a very expensive mistake.

Chip Poirot said: So don’t blame the U.S. Constitution for this and please spare me assertions about how reasonable people may disagree about the U.S. Constitution. I suppose reasonable people might disagree about waterboarding as well.

What? I didn’t say anything about the Constitution, its amendments, or waterboarding. I’m not going to engage with you on this Chip, you appear to be looking for a fight.

Chip,

I think it’s untenable to insist the district should have written clear rules that Tesla coils should not be used to burn crosses into students’ skin. There has to come a point, surely, where basic rules (don’t assault students and don’t promote your personal religion in class) can be upheld without every single possible variation being spelled out in detail. Otherwise Freshwater could move on to using soldering irons to burn fish symbols onto students’ foreheads, using as his defence, “The district only forbade Tesla coils, crosses, and arms.”

eric said:

Chip Poirot said: So don’t blame the U.S. Constitution for this and please spare me assertions about how reasonable people may disagree about the U.S. Constitution. I suppose reasonable people might disagree about waterboarding as well.

What? I didn’t say anything about the Constitution, its amendments, or waterboarding. I’m not going to engage with you on this Chip, you appear to be looking for a fight.

This is what you said Eric:

Relevant to this case: (IMO) reasonable people can disagree about how far a school administration needs to go to ensure their hearing structure gives the accused a fair shake.

You made this statement after I posted a link to and directly cited the Ohio Revised Code. It is a clear and plain principle of the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Revised Code as to what is required to provide a fair hearing. Here, I’ll quote further the plain language of the statute:

From ORC 3319-16: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3319.16

The hearing shall be conducted by a referee appointed pursuant to section 3319.161 of the Revised Code, if demanded; otherwise, it shall be conducted by a majority of the members of the board and shall be confined to the grounds given for the termination. The board shall provide for a complete stenographic record of the proceedings, a copy of the record to be furnished to the teacher. The board may suspend a teacher pending final action to terminate his contract if, in its judgment, the character of the charges warrants such action.

Both parties may be present at such hearing, be represented by counsel, require witnesses to be under oath, cross-examine witnesses, take a record of the proceedings, and require the presence of witnesses in their behalf upon subpoena to be issued by the treasurer of the board. In case of the failure of any person to comply with a subpoena, a judge of the court of common pleas of the county in which the person resides, upon application of any interested party, shall compel attendance of the person by attachment proceedings as for contempt. Any member of the board or the referee may administer oaths to witnesses.

Yet you said that reasonable people can disagree on a matter that is both statutorily and Constitutionally defined. This is the same dissembling that Yoo used to justify torture.

Now, if you want to clarify then fine. Clarify and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Your comments about “reasonable people may disagree” are also being made in the context of a concerted and sustained effort by right wing groups nationally and in the state of Ohio to weaken or eradicate teacher tenure. You are employing the same tactic as these groups and using the same language as these groups. At present, in the state of Ohio, the same right wing Republican yahoos who attack education in general and who have a holy mess out of school funding also want to impose an absurd 9 year requirement to receive tenure and in addition, weaken the plain language of the existing statute.

Well Eric, if you are going to walk like a duck, talk like a duck, quack like a duck, then I will come to the conclusion that you are a duck or a fellow traveler of ducks.

But like I said-if you want to clarify and recognize what the law is in this case and what is legally required-then all the better.

But so far-save for the issue of separation of Church and State, you have taken the same position as Alito, Scalia, Roberts and Thomas on the Constitutional rights of public employees. In fact, you have staked out territory far to the right of Alito, Scalia, Roberts and Thomas, since I doubt even they would dispute the plain meaning of the ORC or the applicability of Loudermill.

And if people are going to use this case to attack tenure, due process and the Constitutional rights of public employees in general, then yeah-I am up for a fight on the U.S. Constitution, on defending Unions and teacher tenure. Ya sure-ya betcha!

Chris Lawson said:

Chip,

I think it’s untenable to insist the district should have written clear rules that Tesla coils should not be used to burn crosses into students’ skin. There has to come a point, surely, where basic rules (don’t assault students and don’t promote your personal religion in class) can be upheld without every single possible variation being spelled out in detail. Otherwise Freshwater could move on to using soldering irons to burn fish symbols onto students’ foreheads, using as his defence, “The district only forbade Tesla coils, crosses, and arms.”

A Tesla coil is not like a soldering iron. Multiple teachers were using the Tesla coil in class and students were apparently routinely allowed to touch it or to have it applied to their skin. Students also engaged in this activity voluntarily. The district should have put an end to this in the bud. They didn’t even need to address Tesla coils specifically.

It’s not an unheard of instructional technique in a science class for a teacher to show or demonstrate an impact of something that is otherwise physically harmless.

On the other hand, the district may be able to argue that Freshwater acted recklessly. If it can show that he was acting recklessly and doing so to promote religion, then their case is strengthened.

But as it is, so much of this case is going to hinge on “he said-he said” because the district failed to act: not because of the statute on teacher tenure in the ORC.

As a teacher I disagree with tenure. I’m with a charter school and jumping through this many hoops to get rid of someone so blatantly incompatible for the job would be maddening. The old archaic administration- union- parent model has one too many stake holders to avoid passing the buck. It’s much easier to form a productive and self correcting system when it’s teachers and parents.

JGB said:

As a teacher I disagree with tenure. I’m with a charter school and jumping through this many hoops to get rid of someone so blatantly incompatible for the job would be maddening. The old archaic administration- union- parent model has one too many stake holders to avoid passing the buck. It’s much easier to form a productive and self correcting system when it’s teachers and parents.

A couple of misconceptions here JGB. First, the person has been “gotten rid of,” he has been fired, no longer works for the district. So this isn’t a matter of tenure stopping a district from firing the teacher, this isn’t a matter of union-ship, etc. In fact, I believe that Freshwater isn’t a member of the union and they aren’t involved in this case (though I could be wrong).

For a number of states, I’m not specifically familiar with Ohio law, tenure has little to do with the ability of a fired professional (to use that term very loosely) from challenging or suing their termination. You can still challenge your termination, at the very least going to the EEOC. This is both for public and private employment situations.

Finally, these procedures have been put into place because, historically, employers have been guilty of violating the rights of individual employees. You might not like unions, but I guarantee you probably prefer the modern educational situation as a teacher than the “good old days” when districts could fire female teachers for walking on the wrong street, or walking down the street with a male who was not her father or brother. Where female teachers were regularly fired if they got married, etc. Unions exist for a reason, the legal foundation for these hearings is a solid one, even when a loon like Freshwater gets to benefit from it.

JGB said:

As a teacher I disagree with tenure. I’m with a charter school and jumping through this many hoops to get rid of someone so blatantly incompatible for the job would be maddening. The old archaic administration- union- parent model has one too many stake holders to avoid passing the buck. It’s much easier to form a productive and self correcting system when it’s teachers and parents.

DogmeatIB has already addressed many of the major issues.

But as far as unions are concerned, I believe it was my father who once told me that unions are a necessary evil that arose in response to a whole series of unnecessary evils.

Mike and Dogmeat:

I have already explained the law in the state of Ohio wrt teacher tenure and commented on the OEA issue. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with me, the fact of the matter is, I actually have reason to know what I am talking about in this case. I see not point in repeating my earlier posts.

Freshwater’s situation is defined by the Ohio Revised Code: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3319.16 Since I have already excerpted from it twice, I won’t do so again. As I have also said before, this is a Constitutional issue because Freshwater is a tenured public employee and also due to the liberty interest in this case.

Untenured teachers may be terminated at the end of their contract for any reason, no reason, a good reason, a bad reason, or simply because the district believes it can find a better teacher. However, in some cases, if the justification for the termination or non-renewal would bar that person from pursuing their career, then there are due process issues because of the liberty interest. In addition, in some very limited cases the free speech clause of the First Amendment may apply.

An untenured teacher cannot just go to the EEOC: You have to prove that the termination or non-renewal was based on a discriminatory motive as defined by EEOC categories: race, gender, national origin, religion.

None of this has anything to do with what one thinks or does not think of the evidence. Having looked at the evidence myself, my own conclusion is that the Mt. Vernon school district will ultimately prevail, though they have seemed bound and determined to make their case more difficult than it needs to be.

Regardless, Freshwater still has a right to defend himself and confront his accusers.

Chip Poirot said:

Mike and Dogmeat:

I have already explained the law in the state of Ohio wrt teacher tenure and commented on the OEA issue. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with me, the fact of the matter is, I actually have reason to know what I am talking about in this case. I see not point in repeating my earlier posts.

It’s not necessary to remind us of the law. I have first-hand experience with a teacher just like Freshwater; and the system failed to eliminate him.

While I wouldn’t take away their rights, I certainly know that these people have more rights than they deserve. They tend to abuse everything that is handed to them.

Mike Elzinga said: It’s not necessary to remind us of the law. I have first-hand experience with a teacher just like Freshwater; and the system failed to eliminate him.

But several people have said things that are contrary to what the actual law is in this case. I’m simply saying that people should specifically look at the actual law in this case.

While I wouldn’t take away their rights, I certainly know that these people have more rights than they deserve. They tend to abuse everything that is handed to them.

I appreciate that Mike. I also appreciate what you said earlier about Unions, except I see them as a positive good-not a necessary evil. That’s not to say Unions are perfect or always right. But they are fundamental for a free and just society.

I also agree that any tenure system will lead to abuses. Tenure is supposed to protect professionals from unjust retaliation. But some people are just good at gaming the system and lack professionalism.

But here again, I’m suggesting people think about this in the context of the current law in Ohio and the political situation in Ohio. Several news sources, including the Columbus dispatch, have pointed to the Freshwater case as an example of what is wrong with the current tenure law. I keep reading over and over again that the current tenure law does not allow termination for just cause-which is patently false when one reads the statute. I also keep reading over and over again that teachers are subject to a higher standard for dismissal than other public employees. But again, no one has explained how or why this is true. I also read over and over again that the system is rotten and full of bad teachers and that all these bad teachers cannot be gotten rid of.

But these news stories provide no data and no evidence to support these blanket assertions. Again, I don’t think anyone disputes that there are bad teachers-just like there are bad cops or bad plumbers or bad lawyers. But what evidence is there that there is really a huge number of bad teachers out there? And why is no one willing to discuss lazy and incompetent educational bureaucrats or the presence of politically opportunist K-12 administrators? And why are teachers constantly blamed for all the problems-especially when what is being asked of K-12 teachers is near impossible?

Let’s suppose that Freshwater was working under Governor Strickland’s proposed K-12 reforms? What would have been concretely different? Apparently, Freshwater’s students were meeting the district standards on the standardized tests. Freshwater had positive evaluations. He had never been sanctioned or disciplined before.

Now I agree-that he probably **should** have been-if for nothing else than for allowing and encouraging students to touch the Tesla coil or demonstrating it on students-even with their consent. But if school administrators are not willing to use the sanctions available to them now-how is changing the language in the Ohio Revised Code going to improve the situation at all? How does making a teacher wait 9 years for tenure improve the teacher shortage or encourage teachers to stay in the profession? Why is tenure blamed for this situation when it is the district and school administrators who made the mess?

For the record: the following are Strickland’s proposed “reforms”:

1. Change the school funding formula (I actually agree with this);

2. Provide for a four year mentoring program of new teachers after they graduate (the OEA is supporting this but I don’t see what it is going to accomplish);

3. Mandate an additional five years to tenure **after** the teacher passes the four year mentoring program;

4. Change the current wording of the Ohio Revised Code to “just cause” from its current wording:

The contract of any teacher employed by the board of education of any city, exempted village, local, county, or joint vocational school district may not be terminated except for gross inefficiency or immorality; for willful and persistent violations of reasonable regulations of the board of education; or for other good and just cause.

Presumably, tenured teachers will still have to be given a full hearing before being dismissed.

The only irony I can see in this whole situation is that Freshwater’s supporters tend to vote heavily for the Republican yahoos in the Ohio House and Senate who are exactly the ones who have tried to completely eliminate tenure in Ohio.

Chip Poirot said:

And why is no one willing to discuss lazy and incompetent educational bureaucrats or the presence of politically opportunist K-12 administrators? And why are teachers constantly blamed for all the problems-especially when what is being asked of K-12 teachers is near impossible?

From what has been reported so far, it appears to me that the school administration had nothing but spineless cowards (and probably some enablers also) dealing with the Freshwater case.

This was also the case in the situation with which I am familiar. The teacher in question should have been let go at the end of his first year of untenured teaching. Problems were already blatantly obvious by that time.

He was incompetent at every subject he was allegedly qualified to teach. It turned out that he had faked his resume. He proselytized, and he openly denigrated the religions of the Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, and other religious students in his class. He even denied this when confronted with audio and video recordings taken by his students. His supervising teacher strongly recommended he be let go, he argued with his supervising teacher that his “freedom of speech” permitted him to proselytize; he wouldn’t take any instructional advice from the supervising teacher. Parents were coming in en-mass to complain, he wouldn’t cooperate with any of the rest of the staff, he stole a sandwich off the sectary’s desk and ate it while she had turned her back to deal with the fax machine. He asked inane, irrelevant questions at staff meetings and of guest speakers at assemblies. He bribed students who held his own sectarian views with As to give him good recommendations (which they did, and they got As while those students who stood up to him got Cs and Ds despite their superior course work). All of this was well-documented repeatedly.

This continued throughout his next three years of untenured teaching, and the problems just got worse. But when the administration had to make the decision to let him go, they couldn’t do it. This teacher brought in a State Representative from his district to mix it up with the administrators (this Representative sponsored or cosponsored several creationist bills in the State House of Representatives). There were apparently also threats of lawsuits, but none of the teaching staff who had to work with this idiot could ever find out what was going on. The teacher’s union was of absolutely no help. The director of the program was behaving like a breathless Chicken Little running around unable to make decisions. He finally recommended him for tenure and the game goes on.

The effects have been devastating for the rest of the teachers who have to pick up the load when students refuse to sign up for his class and flood other classes to avoid him. Yet this idiot is given “professional development opportunities” to fill out his unscheduled time. He manages to get the most inane activities and refuses to take on anything challenging that would improve his knowledge and teaching skills.

I have seen it first hand. It’s unbelievable, incomprehensible, outrageous, infuriating, frustrating, and yet there is absolutely nothing being done about it.

And the entire teaching community gets the blame for the existence of this kind of incompetence in their midst.

Mike,

Thanks for the story. It certainly explains your frustration. That is really an amazingly horrendous story. Untenured teachers get fired (or non-renewed) for lots less and even tenured teachers can be fired for lots less. In Ohio, the OEA is advising teachers-including tenured teachers-to not even maintain facebook pages because of teacher licensure requirements.

The other aspect of the Freshwater case that I find curious-but not surprising-is how many supporters Freshwater appears to have in the district and among the students. One of the reasons these teachers are able to proselytize (either overtly or surreptitiously) is because a significant number of people in some districts, or even a majority, want a religious environment in the local public school. I have the sense that if Freshwater had been just a little bit smarter (i.e. he had had the brains not to use the Tesla coil to demonstrate on students) most of this stuff would have never come out. And even after that, it was only when the student’s parents filed suit that the district took action.

A lot of this seems to go back to the decision by the Courts to allow use of school facilities by groups dedicated to proselytizing. Admittedly, it’s a sticky wicket-students ought to be able to form any club that interests them as long as its legal. But nobody ever forms a Wiccan club and if they did, you know there would be one hell of an uproar. But all these groups-Campus Crusade, FCA are all out to proselytize.

Chip Poirot said:

In a post that seems to have gotten swallowed up by server connection problems, I went over some of the background in terms of shifts in rates of return to human capital. Simply put, while you are correct that we still need practical skills, the return to investment on these skills in the U.S. has declined dramatically. This drives a lot of students into college who see college as a form of “training” much like being trained to be a plumber is training.

I would offer an educated guess here. We have gradually come to devalue such practical skills because we have been able to farm out many of them to other countries and save the “mental, prestige jobs” for ourselves. We have developed a skewed perception of which jobs are really essential in supporting society and what behaviors and attitudes are considered “refined and educated”.

I personally believe that can’t hold in the long run; and such stratification within and among societies can only mean trouble in the long run, especially when societies run up against limits to growth.

Science fiction has explored this topic many times; including that episode where James T. Kirk was stuck in the mines with “savages” who became that way by breathing gases in the mines, and who were looked down upon by the “educated and refined” society in the sky that was built upon and supported by the labors of the miners.

I’m also not sure what you meant by this:

Simply that every individual who is supported by and benefits from a society that protects and feeds him or her, no matter what path they take through that society’s educational systems, needs to encounter a serious education in the common elements that all members of that society depend on for survival. They should not be so isolated that they come to think that somehow their dependency on the society and others is a privilege that only they have because of their imagined high social status in that society. Much abuse comes from seeing others as simply inferior fodder for doing unpleasant labor or for waging wars.

Mike Elzinga wrote

I would offer an educated guess here. We have gradually come to devalue such practical skills because we have been able to farm out many of them to other countries and save the “mental, prestige jobs” for ourselves. We have developed a skewed perception of which jobs are really essential in supporting society and what behaviors and attitudes are considered “refined and educated”.

I personally believe that can’t hold in the long run; and such stratification within and among societies can only mean trouble in the long run, especially when societies run up against limits to growth.

I wouldn’t have put it like that, but essentially, that is the big picture. The smokestack industries have migrated to China and similar countries while the growth in the U.S. has been in either the abstract, mental field (lawyers, doctors, computer programmers, finance specialists) a very few technical fields (computer repair, med tech, paralegal) and a lot in low skill jobs (Walmart, etc.).

I don’t think that the smokestack jobs can come back. But we could be creating skilled jobs in green technology.

I agree that this has been and will continue to be an unhealthy trend.

But that doesn’t change the fact that at least in the present, college education is accurately perceived as a ticket out of the Walmart jobs. And as long as that is the case, colleges and Universities will continue to be swamped by demands for “relevance”, “access”, “accountability”, and “job ready degrees”. The sad reality is that those demanding these aspects don’t understand what it is they are demanding. If you want a “job ready skill”- med tech, computer repair, auto mechanic and similar skills will be in high demand. But if what is wanted is a job doing mental labor, then colleges and universities cannot train you to be “job ready” except to help you obtain the general skills that will serve you well in a number of jobs. Or we can educate people to be capable of moving on to law school or med school. But this will still require an awful lot of “impractical” education.

Chip Poirot said:

I don’t think that the smokestack jobs can come back. But we could be creating skilled jobs in green technology.

Another of the areas I have had some experience with is, in fact, just such technology. And I know what it is like to live in a partially self-sustaining cylinder under water. None of it is as “green” as it is made to appear. But we have to move in that direction now.

Wind turbines and solar cells are made of materials that require intense energy sources to mine, produce, refine and recycle; and those energy sources are not green.

Solar energy depends directly on technologies that can only be built with current technologies that burn fossil or nuclear fuels at the moment. Building up a solar infrastructure that could produce the kinds of energy intensities necessary to continue building and replacing parts in that infrastructure is still a long way off. We are not at a point where we can bootstrap off green technology to produce more green technology.

Nuclear and fossil fuels will still be needed in the foreseeable future, and these technologies are not really green.

Electrical energy storage depends on minerals such as lithium and other elements that still have to be obtained from somewhere using energy that is obtained from non-renewable sources. Copper and aluminum to be used in generators and motors and distribution grids still have to be mined. The demands on other minerals will continue to increase as world population and competition for these resources increases.

Return on energy investments with fossil fuels have been enormous (on the order of 40-to-1 to 100-to-1), but this has been dropping steadily since peak oil in the US in the 1970s. There may come a time when it is at best 1-to-1 if not less.

That doesn’t mean everything is hopeless, but it will certainly bring human societies back to an understanding of the realities of pre-industrial revolution economies. Societies living up against such carefully balanced returns on energy investment will come to understand what is important and what is not.

And all of this will enhance the status of those who can discover and make sustainable green sources with the highest returns on energy investments. That won’t be limited to bankers, lawyers, politicians, computer specialists, mathematicians, or sports heroes and entertainers. Scientists, technologists, technicians, and skilled labor will be near the top of the prestige list along with medical practitioners, health workers, farmers, and food and resource distributors. We can only hope we won’t need too many warriors.

nearly a week old i know

The only irony I can see in this whole situation is that Freshwater’s supporters tend to vote heavily for the Republican yahoos in the Ohio House and Senate who are exactly the ones who have tried to completely eliminate tenure in Ohio.

well, consistency is certainly not the wingnuts strongpoint :)

I think Freshwater had a duty to protect his students. Branding students with this tester is opposite the safety instructions on the device, and contrary to every duty any person has to protect a child in their care. It is difficult, for me, to imagine a more clear breach of duty on the part of a teacher.

Imagine this guy’s colleague, William Tellwater. Tellwater coaches the schools rifle shooting team. As a demonstration of his own prowess, and how to win competitions, he has for years put students up against a tree with an apple on their head, and then used one of the competition rifles to turn the apple into apple sauce with one bullet. A few months ago another student sneezed as Tellwater pulled the trigger, and he grazed a student’s head. Tellwater treated the contusion with Neosporin and asked the kid not to tell his parents. His barber father noticed the wound the following Saturday while cutting the kid’s hair.

What defense would this fellow have? Freshwater only used a different weapon.

Ed Darrell said:

What defense would this fellow have? Freshwater only used a different weapon.

That he’s being persecuted by those awful liberal atheists?

Stanton said:

Ed Darrell said:

What defense would this fellow have? Freshwater only used a different weapon.

That he’s being persecuted by those awful liberal atheists?

Yeah, how dare they take away his god-given right to steal tax money, lie to children, and brand them with the symbol of his cult!

Imagine for a moment the book on Freshwater’s desk was one by Aleister Crowley, and the mark on the kid’s arm was a pentagram. How far do you think his defense would get him?

fnxtr said:

Imagine for a moment the book on Freshwater’s desk was one by Aleister Crowley, and the mark on the kid’s arm was a pentagram. How far do you think his defense would get him?

They would have crucified him upside down if that were the case.

Just a minor update on the subpoenas that I put on my website and which I’ll repost here:

The minutes of the May 4, 2009 school board meeting are now online.

http://www.mt-vernon.k12.oh.us/cont[…]ular-PDF.pdf

In this meeting, it was voted—by the Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education—to quash the subpoenas of Margie Bennett and Ian Watson.

The board believes that only these two members were subpoenaed. Attorney for John Freshwater, R. Kelly Hamilton, filed an “application to compel attendance of witnesses” that says that Jody Goetzman was also subpoenaed.

The relevant portion of the board’s minutes are below:

Mrs. Fair moved, seconded by Mr. Hughes, to quash Dr. Bennett’s subpoena to testify at the Freshwater termination hearing on May 7 and May 8, 2009.

Call of votes: Mrs. Fair, Yes; Mr. Hughes, Yes; Dr. Bennett, Abstain; Mrs. Goetzman, Yes; Mr. Watson, Yes.

Motion carried.

Mrs. Goetzman moved, seconded by Mrs. Fair, to quash Mr. Watson’s subpoena to testify at the Freshwater termination hearing on May 7 and May 8.

Call of votes: Mrs. Goetzman, Yes; Mrs. Fair, Yes; Dr. Bennett, Yes; Mr. Hughes, Yes; Mr. Watson, Abstain.

Motion carried.

How is this relevant? We already knew this.

Freshwater has amended his complaint against the school. He ( and his wife) have added “Loss of Consortium”. I looked it up here is what it means:

loss of consortium- n. the inability of one’s spouse to have normal marital relations, which is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Such loss arises as a claim for damages when a spouse has been injured and cannot participate in sexual relations for a period of time or permanently due to the injury, or suffers from mental distress, due to a defendant’s wrongdoing, which interferes with usual sexual activity. Thus, the uninjured spouse can join in the injured mate’s lawsuit on a claim of loss of consortium, the value of which is speculative, but can be awarded if the jury (or judge sitting as trier of fact) is sufficiently impressed by the deprivation. (See: consortium, damages)

Some fine discussions on this board. I want to just point out a couple facts (& correct me if I’m wrong). 1. John did not have tenure. Actually, there is nothing called tenure in the MV city schools for teachers; however, a continuing contract is considered the equivalent since once a teacher is given one, it does not need renewed. I do not believe John held a continuing contract since he earned only a bachelor degree. One of the criteria that must be met before applying for a continuing contract is the earning of a master degree. So, John was not “tenured”. 2. The work of the union (i.e., negotiating contracts, pay scales, etc.) benefited John; however, he was not a member of the union. They were under no obligation to help him with his issues with the school board or administration.

Freshwater has amended his complaint against the school. He ( and his wife) have added “Loss of Consortium”

Maybe his arm wasn’t the only place he tried his tesla coil.

I guess the value of the award depends on how valuable the “consortium” is.…

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on June 17, 2009 2:18 PM.

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