Botello Elementary's Suspended Whistleblower Claims DISD is Dragging its Feet

Elliot Monteverde-Torres' teaching career is still on pause, nearly two months after he filed a complaint about goings-on inside Botello Elementary School -- and he's heard almost nothing from DISD about his "potential misconduct," he says.

Monteverde-Torres was placed on paid leave following his allegations of BB guns being brought to school and prescriptions pills changing hands among elementary students, all without much discipline or explanation by Principal Angel McKoy. Following his complaint, the Texas Education Agency ordered that DISD investigate his allegations, and DISD placed him on paid leave for potential misconduct.

The third-grade math teacher, whose contract was not renewed for 2012-13 earlier this year, is still barred from returning to work as his students take the STARR exam this week. And he's not enjoying the paid time off.

The school district's report on Botello was originally due last Friday, but the TEA extended the deadline by a month, Monteverde-Torres says. He says the deadline passed without district officials interviewing many of the teachers who had first-hand knowledge of the issues he raised in his complaint. He says several of his coworkers expressed their frustration to him. The school district will not comment on the situation because the investigation is ongoing.

"These are urgent issues. There are children involved. It really takes me aback -- it's really upsetting that it has taken this long ... It's almost as if no one cares," Monteverde-Torres says. He claims the school now runs on fear and retaliation, and that that culture has trickled from the top administration all the way down to the students and parents.

"There is tremendous fear of retaliation ... How do you prosper in an environment where the people who are teaching them are probably under such unrealistic pressure?" Monteverde-Torres asks.

He's not alone in his frustration. Earlier this month, parents wrote a letter defending Monteverde-Torres and detailing their complaints about the disrespect and lack of communication and discipline stemming from Principal McKoy.

This week, Adelfa Callejo, the first Latino SMU law school graduate and the sister of Felix G. Botello, the school's namesake, conducted her own survey of parents and others at Botello. Afterward, she wrote a letter to Superintendent Alan King saying that she did not hear one complaint about Monteverde-Torres, and that the problems partially stemmed from McKoy's inability to speak Spanish in a mostly Latino school. The letter focused the blame on the principal for making parents feel ignored and humiliated, and it detailed a list of recommendations to identify and resolve the issues including anonymous surveys of parents, teachers and staff. (District officials have declined to comment on the incident.)

"The irony of it is at one point I was considered to be an excellent candidate" to become a principal, Monteverde-Torres says. He will graduate from UT next month with his masters in educational administration, he says, and was picked by the district to take part in the two-year program.

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Leslie Minora