DISD teacher on leave after sending critical e-mail

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on January 30, 2012 at 11:12 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 30 at 11:14 PM

DALLAS — A Dallas ISD teacher remains on administrative leave after sending a critical e-mail to a school board member.

Trustee Edwin Flores spoke out for the first time about the controversy Monday afternoon after he was confronted by News 8 at a reading event. Flores admitted he saw the e-mail and then forwarded it to the district’s administration office.

"Those are administrative matters," Flores said. "A trustee needs to follow procedure, and that’s to send it to administration, and what happens after that is really out of our hands."
 
When asked whether that teacher, Joseph Drake, should have been put on paid administrative leave, Flores replied: "I don’t know. I did what I needed to do."
 
The move has angered teachers and community groups who worry the teacher is being punished for simply speaking out.

The teacher’s union, Alliance AFT, has planned a news conference for Tuesday, saying the district has a history of “bullying” its educators.
 
Drake, a fourth-grade teacher at Central Elementary School, said he typed the e-mail Friday morning after trustees decided the night before to extend the workday for 45 minutes without additional pay.
 
"I didn’t think it was that heavy or threatening at all," Drake said, adding he sent it to Flores’ campaign e-mail address — not the district’s address.


The teacher wrote that Flores’ decision is making teaching “more and more miserable each day.” The father of six continued by typing that he is the sole breadwinner and is “struggling to pay bills and just make it through life.”
 
An hour after sending the e-mail, Drake said he was pulled out of his classroom and asked to report to the main district office, where he was told he was being put on paid administrative leave.
 
"I have been a teacher for 14 years, and there’s never been any kind of … discipline problem," Drake said. "Nothing like this has ever happened to me."
 
He has now hired attorney Peter Schulte, who is considering a lawsuit based on civil rights violations.
 
"For [Flores] to feel like he needed to send it on to the administration, I think was ridiculous," Schulte said. "I think he was a coward. I think if he couldn’t accept criticism, he shouldn’t have ran for elected office."
 
The school district would not comment, other than to say it is a personnel matter that it is investigating.
 
Flores refused to answer whether teachers should be punished for complaining to trustees. He said he could not comment in detail about the situation, only that he followed district policy in forwarding the e-mail.
 
"I mean I feel bad for the guy, but again, it’s completely out of my hands," he said.
 
Meanwhile, Drake remains out of the classroom. He worries he’ll soon be out of a job.
 
"I have a family to support," he said. "I do need my job."

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com


Here is the full text of the e-mail Joseph Drake sent to Edwin Flores:

Mr. Edwin Flores,

It is sad that individuals like you make this noble profession of teaching America’s future leaders more and more miserable each day.  We already give more of our daily selves to the students and community than an average worker, including lawyers. I have been on the same salary step for 4 years, due to the fact that the district shifts it each time I am due for that coveted next step.  I have received no substantial raise in 4 years also. I am the father of 6 children and am the only income for my family. I am struggling to pay bills and just make it through life.  We get dumped on by administration each day, cursed out by students, yelled at by parents, receive very little respect from the community, work long hours, and receive meager pay.  But that’s okay. I see, on the other hand, that according to the Dallas CAD you have several nice properties in your name at [address deleted] (value $155,770), [address deleted] (value $187,310), and [address deleted] (value $225,330).  I, on the other hand, am struggling to pay bills and just make it through life. I used to think I was doing something good for society.  People like you destroy morale, beat us down into the ground, and make us wish we had been greedy enough to go into the business world as yourself.

Sincerely,
Joseph Drake, M. Ed.
4th grade Bilingual Teacher
Central Elementary


 

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