Teacher Who Alleged Principal Misconduct Back in Classroom
Posted:Monday, May 19, 2014 5:45 pm|Updated: 7:41 pm, Thu May 22, 2014.
After spending two years in the rubber room, a Staten Island Teacher went back to work last week, although he was fined $10,000 for misconduct.
A hearing officer acquitted Francesco Portelos, an outspoken technology instructor at Berta A. Dreyfus I.S. 49, of most of the 38 charges against him.
Called Principal Dishonest
A Teacher since 2007, he ran afoul of his schools administration in 2012, when he filed an allegation of financial misconduct against its Principal. The Department of Education argued he was unfit for the classroom and wanted Mr. Portelos fired. Throughout the disciplinary hearing, he waited in the Absent Teacher Reserve, where he launched a prolific defense campaign that included blogging as well as posting videos and files to his website,protectportelos.org.
He estimated the DOE spent $600,000 during the hearing, though that figure couldnt be independently verified.
Most of the charges of misconduct were dismissed May 2, but mediator Felice Busto found that Mr. Portelos was guilty of some of the charges, including improperly accessing a DOE e-mail account, redirecting a school website and sharing confidential information online. He was reinstated but fined $10,000. Mr. Portelos had continued to receive his salary while the charges were adjudicated.
Good Ratings in Past
The ruling also noted that colleagues and his supervisors lauded his work in the years leading up to the charges. It said that he has many years ahead of him to provide a quality education to students and make a difference in their lives. Still, it noted that in his quest to defend himself, [Mr. Portelos] lost sight of the fact that the [DOE] is his employer, and not his enemy.
DOE spokesman David Pea told the Staten Island Advance May 9 the department was still reviewing his case.
Mr. Portelos engaged in repeated incidents of misconduct that were inappropriate, unprofessional and demeaning of his position as educator, Mr. Pea wrote. Accessing fellow employees e-mails without consent, hijacking the schools website and causing negative notoriety to the school community is unacceptable behavior.
In the past two years, Mr. Portelos said hes heard from Teachers in the city and from as far as California going through similar situations. While still committed to the classroom, the former United Federation of Teachers delegate is also thinking about fighting to represent educators and may run for a union leadership position in 2016. He has begun a Dont Tread on Educators advocacy group with about 70 people citywide.
These are people who are being targeted because either theyre too old or theyre not tenured and they maybe question a Principal on some of the services the kids werent getting, he said.
He resumed teaching May 12, though not in the technology lab at his former school, instead teaching at an elementary school. He said it was exhilarating to be back in the classroom, but frustrating.
So far, Im in a really good school, but thats not where I think Im needed, he said.