The Chief- Most Claims Tossed, but DOE Moves to Fire Teacher


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Most Claims Tossed, But DOE Still Moves To Fire a Teacher

By DAVID SIMS | Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013 5:15 pm

Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard J. Condon April 25 found no evidence to substantiate a number of serious claims against a Teacher who has publicly blogged about his last year in the rubber room, but the Department of Education is moving to dismiss him anyway.

The investigation into 35 separate allegations made by staff at I.S. 49 in Staten Island, all against each other and mostly involving Teacher Francesco Portelos, the United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, and Principal Linda Hill, took more than a year and six investigators to wrap up, Mr. Condon said in his letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Ran Business From School

Initially Ms. Hill lodged a complaint against Mr. Portelos, with 10 more incorporated during the subsequent investigation. He was accused of doing personal work for his real-estate business on school time, making himself administrator of the computer system and reading and distributing private e-mails, and posting student information on his website.

Mr. Portelos acknowledged performing real estate work at the school, but only at lunch and after school hours, and said the Principal approved of his work on the school website. He had always been administrator until his privileges were stripped from him in January 2012, at which point he reinstated himself.

He had always owned the website personally and declined to transfer it to the schools authority until consulting with an intellectual-property attorney; he then took down the website. Although he admitted to reading one Teachers e-mails for information, he said he did not share it with anyone. He did post his own information, taken from his DOE file, to his Project Portelos website, an account of his time in the rubber room.

From then on, the case became a mess of traded allegations, many involving Mr. Porteloss work on the schools computers and Ms. Hills efforts to lock him out of the labs after he was re-assigned due to the allegations.

Unfounded Allegations

Some other staff are also named in the complaints, but Mr. Condon and his investigators found no evidence to substantiate most of them, including claims of student harassment and inappropriate dress. The investigation did not find evidence to support the allegations, Mr. Condon notes at the end of the letter.

However, he is referring the case to the Conflicts of Interest Board, saying some of the conduct may violate its provisions.

And the DOE is pursuing Mr. Porteloss termination, with spokeswoman Connie Pankratz saying, This type of behavior breeds mistrust and undermines the stability of school.

Mr. Portelos posted a response on his website, noting that the SCI report was sent to the media and a reporter had forwarded it on to him. He claimed that he stayed late at I.S. 49 95 percent of the time and that he made some $5,000 in real-estate commissions last year, showing how minor the business was compared to his day job.

Questions Use of Resources

The amount of man-hours and taxpayer funds used for this investigation is astounding, he said. I have not heard from the DOE, but was told by reporters that they are moving to terminate me. I wish them luck as they are going to need it.

Mr. Portelos began teaching five years ago; he was removed from the classroom in April 2012, three months after the first allegations were filed. He claims that his activism as a chapter leader and a member of the School Leadership Team, especially his questions on budget and leadership, turned the administration against him, prompting the charges.

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