DISD reinstates teacher who sent testy e-mail

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on January 31, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 31 at 7:54 PM

DALLAS — The Dallas Independent School District has reinstated a teacher four days after he was placed on leave after sending a critical e-mail to a school board member.

Joseph Drake said he will return to his fourth grade classroom at Central Elementary School on Wednesday morning.

"It's going to be good to see their faces and get back into the daily grind," Drake said.

The district faced heavy criticism after Drake was put on paid administrative leave on Friday — one hour after he sent an e-mail to DISD Trustee Edwin Flores complaining about the board's decision last week to extend the workday of teachers by 45 minutes without additional pay.

"I think they realized they over-reacted a little bit, and at this point they needed to take a step back," said Drake's attorney Peter Schulte, who is considering filing a civil rights lawsuit against the district.

Earlier Tuesday, the teachers’ union, Alliance-AFT, blasted Flores and accused the district of "bullying" its educators.

"If you voice your concern or voice your opinion, then there are consequences that can happen immediately," said Alliance-AFT president Rena Honea.

She said a Dallas high school teacher was removed from the classroom this month after he reported students cheating.

"The actions the district took are... amazing," said Alliance-AFT executive vice president George Rangel, adding that the teacher in that case remains on paid leave.

Trustee Edwin Flores spoke about the controversy Monday afternoon after being confronted by News 8 at a reading event. He admits he saw Drake's e-mail and then forwarded it to the district's administration office.

"I followed policy and directed it to the administration," Flores said. "I mean, I feel bad for the guy, but again, it's completely out of my hands."

When asked whether Drake should have been placed on paid administrative leave, Flores replied: "I don’t know. I did what I needed to do."

The district's heavy-handed policy has angered teachers and community groups, who say administrators have bred a culture of threatening teachers into silence and punishing those who fail to obey.

"There’s something about this that's vindictive' that's arrogant; that's combative; that's hateful," said teacher Ethel Castaneda, who retired from DISD in June after 30 years in the classroom. "I find that absolutely amazing that a teacher could be put on leave for something that has absolutely nothing to do with his interaction with a student."

The school district refuses to comment on Drake's case, calling it a "personnel matter."

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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