This is the last part of a three-part series on A Case for Tenure:
It’s best if you read Part 1 and 2 before you read this post.
We continue with charges, from my 3020-a termination, hearing where Arbitrator Felice Busto sustained the specifications including bringing notoriety and ridicule to theDOE.
SPECIFICATION 31: During the 2012-2013 school year. Respondent, without consulting, notifying, and/or seeking approval from Principal Hill and/or the Department, altered the school website, www.Dreyfus49.com. to automatically redirect visitors to his website, protectportelos.org, which chronicled his issues with various groups including Principal Hill, I.S. 49, and the Department.SUSTAINED
Let me try to summarize this. From October 9, 2009 to the present day I have owned and paid for the domain namedreyfus49.com. There is no written policy, law or regulation that anyone I know is aware of that prevents anyone from forwarding internet traffic to anywhere they please when they own a domain name. I mean I could, as the owner of dreyfus49.com, forward all visitors who click or type that in to the actorRichard Dreyfus’web page if I wanted.
I was directed to terminate the site in March 2012 and I did so by cutting off all access to it and the page going to nothing when typed in. However, the domain name does not just disappear. The domain name does not get deleted. It was renewed until October 9 2012.
The arbitrator stated “Respondent testified that he did not believe that students, or anyone for thatmatter, would be typing in Dreyfus49 six months after the site had been terminated. T.2713. Moreover, Respondent offered no legitimate reasons to renew the domain nameof a website he had been directed to terminate and then use it to forward visitors toprotectportelos.”
The arbitrator writes that I gave “no legitimate reason to renew the domain after directed to terminate“, but then wrote “Respondent testified that he auto-renewed the Dreyfus49.com domain nameafter the site had been terminated because of the ongoing issues with theadministration. T. 2712.“
There is something else that happened. Dreyfus49.com was thedefault website inserted at into theschool’s server. This means that around theschool, or at least around my old lab, when a user opened theinternet icon it would direct them to dreyfus49.com. For months after March 19, 2012, that would be a blank page. However, with my name being slandered everywhere for hijacking a site owned by the school, I decided, as owner, to forward it to protectportelos.org. How can I possibly know, that months and a summer after the site was closed and I was removed, that they did not change thedefault internet site at school Apparentlywhen I made the change, protectportelos.org started popping up at school. “There goes that hacker Portelos again with his magical hacking skills.”
“I find that Respondent’s action to forward visitors from Dreyfus49.com inSeptember 2012 and thereafter to protectportelos.org was conduct unbecoming hisposition and conduct prejudicial to the good order, efficiency or discipline of the service.Specification 31 issustained.”
ProtectPortelos.org was created and maintained for the purpose of bringingawareness to the public. I believe I have succeeded, and continue to succeed,withthat purpose.
SPECIFICATION 33:During the 2011-2012 school year. Respondent recorded a video in a school facility,namely, I.S. 49, of a student during school hours, without permission or authority.SUSTAINED
This video was recorded by me, a week before I was removed, and has been posted a few times on this site. Other educational bloggers have shared this video as well. The AP in the video states she does not remember the incident at all, but Principal Hill, who was not there, does. AP Diacomanolis was allegedly “fixing a zipper.” Not sure what sleeveless blouse has a zipper by the stomach.
The SCI investigators did not interview other adults that were there, but instead interviewed Principal Hill that was not present. SCI found nothing inappropriate with this video, nor did former Superintendent Erminia Claudio norPrincipal Linda Hill. My testimony on why I recorded this was lengthy both on direct and cross-examination. Basically, the staff at the school, whether they want to openly admit it openly or not, know what was going on at IS 49. Past allegations made against this AP went nowhere and investigators even came in and interviewed thewrong Ms. D. During my lunch period one day, I heard a girl scream and then AP DeniseDiacomanolis’ voice yelling. I walked by and recorded it, because I felt like the chances of something inappropriate happening were high. However, even live video will is not enough to substantiate a case for SCI and OSI when it is against an administrator. If it was against a teacher, all you need is one troubled kid and the investigators go full force.
Even a former IS 49 school safety agent that I ran into stated something like “…if she [Diacomanolis] ever put her hands on my kid like she does with others, we would have a big problem.”
You can read more about how SCI modified the evidence presented here:
Part 2:A Tale of Two Videos
Part 10:SCI Tampers with Video Evidence
A-640: “All requests to film or photograph at schools or other school facilitiesby producers ormakers of films, television shows, commercials, news magazine programs, or documentarynews(hereinafter collectively referred to as Producer) must first be made in writing to theOffice of Communications and Media Relations.”
I tookeffortsto hide theidentity of thestudent both visually and in terms of audio. Principal Hill stated that theparents were very upset that their daughter was recorded, but when asked if they were shown the video or notified that there are cameras in the hall, she responded “No.” I wonder if they saw the video if they would be upset with me or Assistant Principal Denise Diacomanolis.
The arbitrator stated “The school has cameras inthe hallways and it is not Respondent’s responsibility to be filming incidents that occur inthe school without permission. I find that Respondent’s conduct violated theDepartment’s policy that prohibits photographing or videotaping a student withoutpermission and that he can be disciplined for doing so. Specification 33 issustained.”
Idid notviolate policy and what we can learn from this is perhaps “If you see something, trust that SCI and OSI will do something about it or say nothing and turn a blind eye.” I do point fingers at the staff that refused to testify on what has been transpiring within the walls of IS 49 in terms of this specification. I do thank the ones that did come in and testified about what was happening.
SPECIFICATION 34:On or about December 12, 2012, Respondent notified I.S. 49 Superintendent ErminiaClaudio that he showed the video referenced in Specification 33 to parents, withoutpermission or authority.SUSTAINED
“Wait!!! Don’t you dare let parents know what is going on at their children’s school. Don’t even think about it! Even if they are your fellow neighborhood parents that you run into at CVS. What were you thinking Portelos”
Did you send it to parents Mr. Portelos I did, because I thought maybe its just me and the video was really not that bad. Here were some responses:
From: [ PTA President 2012]
Date: Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Subject: RE: Need to take Action
To: Mr. Portelos <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Good Morning Mr. Portelos,
I justviewedthe video and it was very disturbing. I cantbelievethis has happen and nothing has been done about it. Thank you for the info, have a great day.
From: [Community Parent]
Date: Mon, Dec 3, 2012
To: Francesco Portelos <email@example.com>
Ok watched it. Who is that disgusting, inappropriately-attired thing touching that child If that was one of mine, all hell would break out.
Date: Mon, Dec 3, 2012
To: Francesco Portelos <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Someone needs to submit those allegations to childrens services, the investigator generals office (NOT the school IG, the NYC IG) and send that video to the press. THAT will make the DOE react
That would make the DOE react No, actually it would not. See former Executive Director of HR Andrew Gordon’s email to Erminia Claudioas it gets swept under therug.
Turns out former Superintendent Erminia Claudio also did not see anything strange.
SPECIFICATION 36:On or about and in themonth of September 2012, Respondent:
A. Sent an email message to a parent without permission or authority stating, insum and substance, that the teacher who sent their son to summer schoolwas not certified to teach and that this message identified the teacher andindicated that her teaching certification had expired.SUSTAINED
B. Failed to notify and/or confirm with I.S. 49 administration that the teacherreferenced above lacked certification prior to contacting the parent.SUSTAINED
There was a parent in the school, who I spoke to outside of school. She was a fellow parent and neighbor. In fact, I can see her house from mine. She was also involved in the school. When I was removed I sought her out to ask why she wasn’t supporting me and looking into the malfeasance I was alleging. In sum and substance she informed me that she felt retaliation when she tried to speak up. She told me that after she brought my name up, her son was sent to Summer School by Assistant Principal Denise Diacomanolis and ELA teacher Jennifer Wolfson (the then fiance of former Chapter Leader Richard Candia). I remember where I was when she told me this and I remember being in shock that they would stoop so low to punish a child. She told me her son’s average did not warrant summer school.
A few month’s later I became aware that Ms. Jennifer Wolfson was teaching out of license and was removed from the school. So now I have this information and I also have this neighbor and fellow parent. What do I do Run into her at thecorner store and make-believe I do not know that the teacher who she allegedsent her son to summer school had an expired license since 2011 No. I notified this parent and now I am paying for it.
The arbitrator stated “Respondent admitted sending this email. T. 2672-2677. Respondent’sargument is that he was never told he had to contact the administration to verify theinformation about Ms. Wolfson’s license. At this time, he testified that he was notgetting any responses from the administration about union-related or any other issues.However, he continued to write emails to various officials and he could have attemptedto contact the administration before inserting himself into this matter. Moreover, whenhe raised this issue in September 2012, the student had already completed summerschool.Respondent was not an administrator and it was not within his authority as ateacher to police the licensing of other teachers.”
“…not within his authority as ateacher.” What about my authorityas a parent and community activist
More info can be found here:Privately Emailing a Parent is a Terminable Offense in the DOE
Want to hear a twist Turns out this parent turned on me and came in to testify against me. She lied and stated that she never stated that Jennifer Wolfson sent her son to summer school. Not sure of her motives, but how else would I know unless we had that exact conversation. In fact I remember asking her “Which subject, Math or English” she responded “English“. I then asked her “Who was —–‘s teacher” She responded “Wolfson.” to which I responded “Ohhhhh.” and she finally responded with “Exactly!”
The parent went on to tell me about her children being retaliated before in another school and she wanted to lay low. Why she changed her story after her children graduated is still unknown. I do find hertestimony here interesting though. Seems like both AP Diacomanolis and Principal Hill stated that Jennifer Wolfson was not uncertified and it was a “clerical error.” I personally find these lies amusing because they were told to cover up a teacher who bashed both of them behind the scenes.
Take notice in the lapse in license from 2011 to 2013. Who knew about it and why was it allowed Perhaps in return for feeding information to the admin they looked theother way.
To compare, I am sharing dismissed specification 37.
SPECIFICATION 37:On or about September 2012, Respondent sent the same parent, referenced inSpecification 36, a second email message without permission or authority stating in sumand substance, that the teacher who sent the parent’s son to summer school was backin school. DISMISSED
The arbitrator stated “Respondent admitted sending this second email. T. 2677. This action on thepart of Respondent was also unnecessary. At this point, Ms.—–‘sson was finishedwith summer school and no longer had her as a teacher. T. 1672. However, there wasno evidence that Ms. —–contacted the school or was upset by the information. I donot find that Respondent’s email to the parent that the teacher was back in school risesto the level of conduct for which he can be disciplined or demonstrates that hecommitted misconduct beyond the charges in Specification 36. Specification 37 istherefore dismissed.”
So let me see if I get this right. You can email parents in the community with factual information about what transpires in their children’sschool, but if they get upset, then you have to pay $10,000. Did I get that right
AND THE LAST SPECIFICATION…….
SPECIFICATION 38A:By committing one, some, or all of the actions described in the above Specifications,Respondent’s actions: Had a disruptive and/or negative impact on students, staff, and/or administrationat I.S. 49 and the Department. SUSTAINED
The arbitrator stated “There can be no question that the number of SCI investigations at I.S. 49 causeddisruption to the staff and administration. However, the bulk of these investigationswere initiated by the administration and Dr. Candia. Even though Respondent initiateda number of investigations with SCI (and other entities), the fact that they were notsubstantiated does not establish that they were filed in bad faith nor is there a chargealleging that he did so.
It was established that the staff at I.S. 49 is polarized and divided. Somedivisions existed before Respondent’s Incidents began. They were apparent as early asJanuary 2012 when Dr. Candia sent the Principal a list of Portelos’ supporters. Dept.Ex. 35. At the time of these hearings, there was testimony from the administration andRespondent’s witnesses that these divisions have intensified and that the staff remainsdivided into pro and anti Portelos’ camps.
However, Specification 38A is limited to determining whether one, some, or all ofthe actions described (and sustained) in these Specifications had a disruptive and/ornegative impact on students, staff, and/or administration at I.S. 49 and the Department.For reasons previously discussed, I find that Respondent’s misconduct in Specifications6, 8, 9, 25, 28, 29, 31, 33, 34 and 36 had a disruptive impact on the students, staff
and/or the administration at I.S. 49 and the Department. Specification 38A is sustained.”
Rebuttal:A key point is what Arbitrator Busto wrote here before she flip-flopped and sustained it “However, the bulk of these investigationswere initiated by the administration and Dr. Candia. Even though Respondent initiateda number of investigations with SCI (and other entities), the fact that they were notsubstantiated does not establish that they were filed in bad faith nor is there a chargealleging that he did so.
Would you say that teacher Wolfson was heavily involved in this case, as a teacher and fiance to former chapter leader Richard Candia She is also one who called investigations to SCI about me Wouldn’t you agree that she was somewhat involved Well, take a look at her response when she was asked if her teaching was affected.
Well, let’s talk about the other students now. What does it say when a year after I am exiled the valedictorian of the next graduating class and her family give me a personal invite to attend graduation Due to a disruption I caused
Oh and I dodged about three recall attempts as well in the two years I ran the chapter from exile. I must have caused some disruption.
Again…it falls under the DOE’s “If you see something…say nothing.”
SPECIFICATION 38B:By committing one, some, or all of the actions described in the above Specifications, Respondent’s actions:
Caused negative publicity, ridicule, and notoriety to I.S. 49 and the Department.SUSTAINED
The arbitrator stated “As discussed previously, the disciplinary process against Respondent and itsvarious tentacles have been the subject of publicity, ridicule and notoriety to I.S. 49 andthe Department. Respondent argues that notoriety cannot be established where theemployer contributes but this argument cannot prevail in the face of Respondent’swide-ranging use of social media, sending blog posts to Department officials andpublicizing his blog in the media and at C E C meetings.
However, this Specification is not a referendum on Respondent’s blog. Rather, itis limited to determining whether by committing one, some or all of the actionsdescribed (and sustained) in the above Specifications, Respondent caused publicity,ridicule and notoriety to I.S. 49 and the Department. For the reasons previously102
discussed in Specifications 6, 8, 9, 28, 29, 31, 33 and 34, I find that Respondent causednegative publicity, ridicule, and notoriety to I.S. 49 and the Department. See also DeptExs. 12, 15, 18, 20, 28, 29, 34A, 35, 38, 47, 52 and 62.”
I caused the negative publicity, ridicule, and notoriety. Me.
SCI apparently closes thousands of cases a year, but select only a few to publish and release publicly. Mine was one. Take a look at who the report was sent to by SCI, not me, but SCI when it was published on April 25, 2013:
So the administration and Richard Candia put in over 30 allegations against me, NYC SCI emails over 60 members of thepress my case, not one article is published because I initiated it and……
“I have determined that the appropriate penalty for Respondent’smisconduct is a substantial fine of $10,000.”
And there you have it fellow citizens. When you look at all the charges and everything it comes down to blog or no blog, live streaming or no live streaming, when they called in investigations a month before the creation of this site, I was going to wind up in a 3020-a. Who knows…Maybe ProtectPortelos actually Protected Portelos. I know that according to themany comments and messages, I received, this site has helped many fight their battles like other sites have helped me.
Having said that, many have offered to donate for the fine. My familyand Iappreciate thegesture it greatly.
“You should also set up a paypal for donations.”
“Ilike that idea of Francesco starting a fund for other teachers and parents to donate to pay the bogus fine. Even if people donate $5 each, it shows teachers and parents coming together, something they rarely do when up against these White Chalk Criminals.”
“Meanwhile Francesco, you need a piece leading into the request for donations that explains what you did as a protector of children.”
“…if going back to court to fight paying this fine is what it takes, Iwilldonate.”
“I hope that you will consider letting your peers, friends and supporters raise the money to pay your fine. You have paid enough already. I would be proud if you would let me help to organize such an effort in your behalf. As someone who experienced one-tenth what you have I would consider it a great honor if you would let me help to lay the basis for allowing your friends to show you their respect and admiration.”
I am appealing it, but who knows where it will lead and if it gets overturned. In the meantime, the DOE did not hesitate to start taking out the funds. In addition to losing out on the extra money I was obtaining while working the after-school programs, I was sent twenty miles and two boroughs away for over a year, plus legal fees and a plethora of other costs like raising two children and mortgage.
I am being really humble here and pasting this link created for donations. Please do not feel obligated. Many told me that they would be honored to be a small part of this fight, so here it is. Thank you all for your support both morally and financially.