Last Friday, January 17, the Rye City School District Board of Education accepted the resignation of one Milton School teacher suspended in the test cheating case.
By Sarah Varney
Last Friday, January 17, the Rye City School District Board of Education accepted the resignation of one Milton School teacher suspended in the test cheating case. The tenured teacher resigned without admission of wrongdoing [“no violation of any law, rule, provision…”]. While the agreement prohibits the teacher from employment in the Rye City School District at any time in the future, it does not include any mention of the revocation of the teacher’s professional certification. The document, received by this paper under the Freedom of Information Act redacts any information about specific charges.
The resignation of the Milton teacher follows a week in which the District and Board was faced with several signs that the community is impatient to see the conflict resolved. At the January 14 Board meeting, a fissure emerged in the Board’s unified support for the ongoing investigation and suspension of the four teachers implicated in a test cheating scandal.
Board member Ed Fox voted ‘no’ to a measure to extend the contract of the leave- replacement teachers. Before he voted, he read a prepared statement expressing concern for the costs incurred. “I am not prepared to vote to extend contracts of leave-replacement teachers so that the District can incur tens of thousands of more dollars in costs that it can ill afford,” he stated.
The following morning, former School Board member Bob Zahm expressed the sentiments of many residents: “Ed is spot on. He had the courage to get up and do the right thing.”
Legal costs, an issue that several community members have mentioned as a basis for their dissatisfaction with the process, were also addressed in Fox’s statement. However, the numbers cited for legal costs associated with the suspended teachers’ case are “misleading and wrong,” said Board of Education President Laura Slack. The line item for legal costs in the 2013-2014 budget is listed as $216,000. So far, 11 percent of that amount, or $23,760, has been spent on the case, involving the teachers, said Slack.
That same day, in a memo leaked to The Rye Record, Rye Teachers Association President Jaime Zung, addressed to the Board and Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez. Zung wrote: “Please do not mistake our silence for apathy. The RTA stands behind these teachers and supports them 100 percent. We understand that you had to follow up on the allegations but believe that after all these months it should have become clear to you that these allegations cannot be supported.”
Zung’s memo continued, “As teachers in this district, collectively with decades of experience dealing with students and parents, we know what goes on during a testing situation and understand how certain things can be misinterpreted, misunderstood, miscommunicated, and sadly, sometimes made up.”
The District declined to comment on any part of Zung’s memo or any part of the separation agreement reached with the suspended Milton teacher.
“The issue isn’t likely to go away, said Arthur Schwartz, a partner at Salles & Schwartz, who is representing two of the suspended teachers. As for the eventual settlement of the charges against the three teachers, Schwartz said the length of time that has passed since the May suspensions without charges is unusual. “I’ve never seen it [these types of cases] reach beyond a year without charges.”