Update, 3 p.m.: Elliot Monteverde-Torres, the teacher suspended after blowing the whistle on his principal, was denied a contract renewal for next school year in the weeks before he sent the complaint letter. See details after the original item.
Original item: The News' Matthew Haag has a story in this morning's paper (and a paywall-free blog post) about a Dallas ISD teacher who, after filing a complaint against his principal, suddenly finds himself suspended with pay but without explanation. If it sounds familiar, it should. If it sounds weird, it is.
It was just last month that Trustee Edwin Flores was publicly apologizing to Joseph Drake, the DISD teacher who'd been suspended after sending Flores an angry letter about the board's decision to extend the teachers' school day. It made Drake a bit of a martyr among teachers, who rallied to his side, and it earned him the Jim Schutze Medal of Honor, which comes with an autographed copy of A People's History. Unfortunately it was autographed by Schutze, not Zinn, so I doubt that was any consolation.
This week's martyr-to-be is Elliot Monteverde-Torres, who teaches third-grade math at Oak Cliff's Botello Elementary. As Haag tells it, and as the documents below show, Monteverde-Torres was a wee unimpressed with the work of his school's principal, Angel McKoy. So he sent a letter.
The letter, addressed to to state education officials and DISD supe-for-now Alan King, painted a portrait of a principal drunk with apathy -- students bringing weapons and drugs to school with no repercussions at all. It caught the attention of TEA, which ordered DISD to investigate. The district told Haag it will.
It's what happened next, though, that seems bizarre, especially given the Drake saga. Monteverde-Torres told Haag that he was called into his principal's office, who ordered him to HR, who handed him a letter saying he was on leave. It said nothing about why, so Monteverde-Torres was left with the impression that he'd blown his whistle too loud for the district's tastes. He's hired a lawyer and is mulling a lawsuit.
Haag's story cites two district policies: one that requires employees to follow the proper chain of command in filing grievances, and one that protects employees who report a crime. It's unclear whether either applies, or neither, or both. The devil's in his usual spot on this one, and there aren't many details quite yet. The district's not saying anything, the teachers union declined to comment, and of the four trustees I emailed last night, only Mike Morath responded, and he did so tepidly.
"I do not yet have the facts of this case," he wrote. "But it's critical that we encourage open feedback from all our employees. And doubly critical that we prevent retaliation against whistleblowers, who play an important role in helping improve the district."
Stay tuned. The documents below were obtained by Haag. I'll ask Schutze to get working on a baggie for him.
Update, 3 p.m.: I just spoke with Monteverde-Torres, who confirmed what I'd heard earlier today: That before sending the letter to the district, he'd been told he wouldn't be back at Botello next fall.
Though he started in 2007, Monteverde-Torres says, he remained a "probationary" teacher, meaning the district could decline to renew his one-year contract without explanation. They did that about a month ago, he says, after various run-ins with his principal.
But Monteverde-Torres says the fact that he was basically fired had nothing to do with the letter he wrote.
"It's just part of, in good conscious, of what I would have done anyway," he says, adding that he started writing the letter before he knew he would be fired. "This gathering of evidence took a while for me to obtain. ... Very few people are willing to take a step forward -- for very good reason. Look at what's happening to me."