But a few hours ago, Rena Honea, president of AFT-Alliance, held a press conference and posted this petition demanding the Dallas Independent School District reinstate fourth-grade Central Elementary bilingual teacher Joseph Drake, who was put on leave late last week after he sent trustee Edwin Flores an angry email regarding the board's vote Thursday to formally extend teachers' workdays by 45 minutes. Flores says he was particularly troubled by Drake's mention of his properties, including his home address, and that per DISD board policy he sent the missive to 3700 Ross, which suspended Drake.
But moments ago trustee Carla Ranger posted a simple sentence to her blog: "Dallas ISD Central Elementary teacher Joseph Drake is scheduled to be reinstated today and return to work tomorrow." Libby Daniels, a district spokesperson, wouldn't confirm: "We cannot discuss personnel matters," she said when asked. (Sigh -- and wasn't Flores just talking about a "communication problem" last night?) When I called Honea to ask if she'd heard the news, she said she had not. Nevertheless, she told Unfair Park, "I am so glad to hear that."
She said that perhaps everyone has learned a lesson from this unfortunate incident. As in: "Hopefully the district was able to take a step back and take a better look at this and see it for what it was. Certainly Dr. Flores may have felt like he had been threatened, especially having children in his home. But for people in the classroom they saw it as an outcry of the frustration people in the classroom are feeling, and he was expressing his First Amendment right. Now let's let Joe get back to the classroom and the great job he does for his kids."
Update at 6 p.m.: Trustee Mike Morath dispatches his thoughts on the subject ...
I can't speak for all Trustees, but this is my take on it:
The safety and security of our students, employees and volunteers is really priority #1; without that, school doesn't work. And put in context, the citing of a public official's home address in an angry email (even though it is public information) is crossing a line. After all, the day before this email was sent, at the board meeting one speaker issued physical threats to the trustees, stating that "me & my boys will come to your houses" if the vote went the wrong way. While I don't yet have children, I can assure you I would have thought about my wife for more than a passing moment if this email had been addressed to me, even if I ultimately dismissed it as innocent.
Democracy fails when our policy differences can't be resolved with debate & deliberation -- no matter how heated -- and instead we revert to the use (or threatened use) of force. But it also fails when opposition isn't tolerated. It appears that Mr. Drake did not intend his email to be a physical threat; he was just extremely frustrated and exercised a temporary lapse of judgment in his reference to a home address. I believe the administration did the right thing by looking into this, determining nothing was intended as a threat to the trustee (or potentially to students), and returning a (justifiably frustrated) teacher back to his classroom
But it is still extremely unfortunate, because we want to change the culture of the district to encourage open & honest feedback from employees, and given the fever-pitch coverage of what appears to me to be a pretty fair yet deliberate response to his email, we've sent a giant signal discouraging open feedback - exactly the opposite of what we want. I suppose what this means is democracy is a messy business, and running a major urban school system is really ground zero of that business, for good and ill.
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