Friday, March 17, 2006

When Teachers Cheat

A major scandal in the Sunshine State has cost several teachers their jobs and may damage the career prospects of many more:
Six Miami-Dade teachers were fired, the first punishments handed down since allegations of continuing-education credit-buying began.

A dozen students and parents defended history teacher Javier Currais for nearly an hour before he was given three minutes of his own.
He barely used any of it.

''You don't know me,'' said Currais, one of 32 teachers who was fired or forced to resign for participating in Miami-Dade's continuing-education credit-buying scandal.``You don't know anything about me except the one mistake you saw on that paper.''

He nearly won a brief reprieve; the School Board came within one vote of letting the teachers stay in their classrooms through the end of the school year to avoid disrupting students before spring's standardized tests.

''I made a mistake three years ago; 191 kids didn't do anything,'' Currais said in a brief, emotional statement. ``Punish me, fire me, do whatever the hell you want with me. Don't screw them over before their test.''

Ultimately, though, the board accepted 26 resignations and fired six teachers by a 5-4 vote. They were the first punishments given as a result of the scandal, which has tarred hundreds more teachers still under investigation.

''This whole situation is tantamount to a bad disease,'' said board member Solomon Stinson.

Currais admitted he paid former Palmetto Senior High teacher William McCoggle for continuing-education classes, which teachers must take every five years in order to renew their licenses. But the classes offered by McCoggle's company -- Moving On Toward Education and Training (MOTET) -- barely existed, according to statements McCoggle made to investigators after he pleaded guilty to fraud last year.

Currais resigned Tuesday, which allowed him to receive payment for unused sick days, but he forfeited his right to appeal. Union leaders said many who were fired would appeal in the state Department of Administrative Hearings.

The four who voted against the firings -- board members Frank Bolaños, Evelyn Greer, Martin Karp and Marta Pérez -- wanted to defer action until the end of the school year.

''It baffles me, just baffles me, to have disruptions at the class level,'' Greer said.
This type of behavior is inexcusable. If classroom teaching is to ever be thought of as a profession rather than simply a job, such nonsense should never be tolerated nor excused. We have to do a better job of policing our own ranks.
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