Discrimination Against Teachers is Alive and Well
My claim of employment discrimination is based on many factors that include but are not limited to my race, sex, age, national origin, religion, retaliation, and medical history.
I am a Caucasian female of Eastern and Western European descent. I was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. My fathers side is Ukrainian and my mothers side is Polish, German, and Slovenian, but she was born in Barcelona, Spain.
LAUSD policies and California laws have violated my employment rights and opportunities because I am not a member of a "disadvantaged" racial group. With that said, LAUSDs white population is shrinking: 72.3% of LAUSD students are of Hispanic origin, 9.6% are of African American origin, 10% are of white origin, 4% are of Asian American origin, 2% are of Filipino origin, and less than one percent are of Native American and Pacific Islander origins.
I was removed from my classroom and school on 2/29/2012 and I now wait for my termination from the District. As a Caucasian teacher in a predominantly Hispanic elementary public school, nine out of ten teachers were forced out of Selma Avenue Elementary School within a time span of two years, and 56% of those White teachers were Jewish. The principal brought in younger Hispanic colleagues from her former school site. Selma had a student population that varied between 250-300 students and a teaching staff of 15 and/or less employees while I was still working there.
I have been discriminated against because I am a woman. Female employees in general earn less than men employees, and most especially within the field of education, female teachers, are taken advantage of because teaching is considered a predominantly female profession. It is within the Districts repertoire to mismanage and abuse female teachers because many female teachers do not have the luxury to stand up against authority and simply cannot afford to lose their jobs. The District knows this, uses a womans vulnerable position to their advantage and is not held accountable for not conducting business in good faith.
For example, while I was teaching at Selma, I had to move from one classroom to another and without much help. I needed students to help me pack and move. I have had to pack and unpack hundreds of boxes over the course of the last fifteen years, which is back breaking work. In 2009-2010, and without any notice, I was forced to pack-up my classroom in one days time while being responsible for teaching and supervising my students at the same time. The students and myself were moving from one side of the campus to the other, and when we finally finished, the assistant principal, Mr. Frank Serrato, and the principal, Dr. Michelle Windmueller, came up to me and started yelling at me to stop moving. I was asked to move on the last day of school because the floors in my former classroom, Room 17, needed to be waxed on the following day, which was a Saturday.
I was yelled at in public. Why am I being held accountable for Dr. Windmueller and Mr. Serratos ineptitude, lack of preparation and planning? Why does the District allow bullying and degrading behavior towards teachers to continue, if there is a Zero Tolerance policy that does not allow for abuse and/or bullying types of behaviors towards anyone. I remember that when my former students and I finally finished moving into Room 8, I looked at all the stuff that was piled on the student desks, tables, floors and chairs, and just absorbed what had happened and felt completely overwhelmed-- I just started to cry. This is what teaching was like in LAUSDs Local District #4: sheer horror.
On the last pupil-free day of the 2010-2011 school year, the principal had a staff development day dedicated to a new physical education program, SPARKS, that was awarded to our school via a grant. I, as well as all other staff members, had to exercise for about 4.5 hours that day after just moving about100 boxes. I was exhausted beyond reason and was made afraid to speak out. At Selma, I was being bullied by: Dr. Michelle P. Windmueller, Selmas Principal, Ms. Theresa C. Wedaa, Selmas Coordinator, Ms. Anahi Lopez, Selmas Jiji Math lab Teacher Assistant (TA) and Ms. Dulce Ruiz, another Selma Teaching
Assistant. As a female teacher, I was abused, bullied and targeted by the schools Leadership Team and District administrators because administrators know that public officials are immune from prosecution and can get away with doing whatever they wanted to do and teachers are not awarded for punitive damages.
Punitive damages are defined as a monetary compensation awarded to an injured party that goes beyond what is necessary in order to compensate the individual for losses; it is intended to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages are also known as exemplary damages, and may be awarded by a jury or a judge. In addition to actual damages, the plaintiff gets compensated for the losses suffered due to the harm caused by the defendant. Punitive damages are a way of punishing the defendant in a civil lawsuit and are based on the theory that the interests of society and the individual harmed can be met by imposing additional damages on the defendant. Punitive damages have been characterized as "quasi-criminal" because they stand halfway between the criminal and Civil Law.
Since 2008, I was my familys major income earner. I became a student advocate because my students, as well as myself, did not have access to educational and teaching opportunities that were provided to other teachers and students but were not to extended to us. I was formally observed three times: the first two observations were by two female administrator observers, Dr. Michelle P. Windmueller, the principal of Selma, Ms. Lourdes Ortiz, the principals Director of Instruction, as well as by Ms. Susan Canjura, who was the Local Districts administrator and was in charge of handling the pilot study on teacher evaluation for LD 4 (Local District). The use of the triad as a structure for open dialog between the teacher and the observer, worked against me, and not for me. It was two District administrators versus one veteran teacher. I felt cornered and overwhelmed that they were going in for the kill. It felt very Darwinian-like, and if I was going to show them up, they were willing and ready to pounce on me. In hindsight, my efforts were sabotaged, I felt used and realized I was just part of a plan that would help boost the principals career for future LAUSD employment.
As a 51-year old woman, who earns a higher salary and has more teaching experience, can be replaced by two less experienced and less costly teachers. However, what no one seems to understand, except for my principal and her Leadership Team, was the fact that when I was teaching, I worked 12-hour days, which was the equivalent of having two more experienced teachers that earn higher-salary rates for the cost of just one. Do the math: my position equals to one veteran teacher @ $75,000.00/year instead of 2 less experienced teachers at the cost of $50,000.00 each, which totals to $100,00.00/year, which is a savings of $25,000.00/year for the school/district. The District saves $25,000.00 for keeping one experienced teacher, as well as all the costs of hiring and training new teachers. Now, multiply the cost saved by 350 rubber room teachers, which thereby saves LAUSD $8,750,000.00 a year, and if given over a period of 10 years, @ $87,500,000.00.
Retaining experienced teachers is less expensive than spending one hundred million dollars on new teachers, 50% of whom will resign/retire or get dismissed within the first five years of teaching, just as I did. As an experienced teacher, I know what it takes to retain new teachers, why doesnt the District use experienced teachers in this capacity? I will tell you why: because it makes sense and LAUSD does not conduct business in good faith nor does it use good sense. Quite the contrary, if something does not make sense, than LAUSD will follow that yellow brick road. LAUSD may claim to work in good faith, but in the analysis of how money is spent, LAUSD spends as much money necessary to keep their own administrator cronies paid. I have seen very experienced administrators who continue to work despite their advanced age: why arent they asked to retire? If age is just a number, why then does age factor fall within the factors that are being used against rubber room teachers? There goes the double standard effect.
I have 26 years of work experience with LAUSD. In 1989, and after my first 5 years of teaching, I resigned from LAUSD in 1989 and pulled out $10,000.00 from my STRS (State Teachers Retirement System) account. I was rehired in 1990, and as a result of my first resignation, I only have 21 years of continuous service but am in my 26th year of employment with the District. If I am terminated now, my pension will be less than $2,000.00 per month before taxes are taken out and I will not have medical benefits for myself and for my family, and as a Diabetic, this is a serious concern. My teaching credential may be revoked from me as well, which will remove my ability to teach for any other school district and will make seeking other kinds of employment very difficult. The only way that I can earn medical benefits for life is if I remain employed five more years up to the time I turn 55. This is the reason why I am now sitting in teacher jail.
I was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel in 1961. My parents, who are European immigrants, came to this country with $20.00 in their pockets and all that they could say in English was okay. English was not my first language and I was naturalized when I was 8 years old. I have dual citizenship; my legal first name is Segalit, which is a Hebrew/Israeli name. For most Americans, Segalit is difficult to say, read and write. My name has always been an obstacle/hindrance for me professionally.
As a Jewess, the history of my people has been one of persecution, which is still being practiced by many, but not all, 21st century LAUSD officials. It is tragic that despite all the Jewish contributions to American society and education, anti-Semitism runs rampant in this District. I am not alone in this declaration. Having been educated in New York private Jewish day schools, I learned both secular and religious subjects. I learned Hebrew as well as Aramaic, studied the Tanach (Torah), the Mishnah, the Gemmorah, Jewish philosophy, rabbinical commentaries and arguments from some of the greatest Jewish minds in history, i.e. Rashi and Rambam. It is within this enriched historical and cultural landscape that I learned that one of the best ways to answer a question is to ask one.
The art of questioning has been ingrained into my DNA and I have applied these thinking strategies throughout my life. In addition to learning about the Holocaust, where I was indoctrinated with the notion that, to question authority when policies, laws and rules are contradictory to what is logical, reasonable and acceptable, is necessary, obligatory, and in fact is considered as doing the right thing.
For me, questioning authority is not a form of disrespect or defiance, it comes from a place of wanting to understand the world around me by making sure that I am an active participant and am not complacent nor compliant without good measure. There are places in LAUSD that do not allow Jewish teachers such as myself to be.
Along with women who are in the armed forces, older/senior/more experienced women in public education are being targeted as well. As a female LAUSD employee with 26 years of experience, I was pulled from my teaching assignment at Selma Avenue Elementary School on 2/29/2012. I am a high quality, irreplaceable teacher, who is being put out to pasture. I had to become a student advocate who questioned the inequitable practices that were taking place in my former school, and was punished as a result of doing so. I participated in LAUSDs new Teacher Evaluation pilot study, where I was treated like a guinea pig, made to endure four formal conferences and write-ups, despite the fact that I was not provided with due process because everyone who worked at Selma Ave. EL lived in fear and due process was not an option.
I was asked to participate in the Districts pilot study from my former principal herself. How is it possible that a fabulous teacher from last year becomes harmful to students the next year? I was more prepared than all the administrator observers who had worked with me, who did not know anything about my students, as well as did not have a handle of the complexities that I was dealing with instructionally, behaviorally and social-emotionally. My CST scores were never looked at, my DIBELS scores were never acknowledged and my former principal used this pilot participation as a ladder to acquiring a promotion from a new principal to a Director of Instruction in a little over two years, even though Selma did not meet all of its AYP goals.
Selma went from being a PI 4 school to a PI 5+ school notwithstanding a 28 point increase in its overall API score, which is now being monitored very closely by the West Educational Service Center under the Director of Operations, Ms. Jan Davis. Dr. Michelle Windmueller and Ms. Theresa Wedaa were both promoted and along with their promotions, LAUSD continues to reinforce the fact that targeting teachers such as myself, as well as the nine teachers before me at Selma, indicates that the District encouraged and commended administrators who made clean sweeps of teaching staffs. LAUSDs agenda of being punitive and destructive juxtaposes its supposed intent to being transparent and collaborative. It does not take an Einstein to figure out the Superintendents agenda, but it does take a Nelson Mandela to stand up to reconciliatory efforts while introducing policies aimed at combating poverty, illiteracy and inequality. Discrimination and professional assassination practices do not promote economic stability and educational equality.
My former female principal, who was a new principal to Selma, respected my work, to a degree, and at times could be highly complementary. However, towards the spring of the 2010- 2011 school year, items were being taken from my classroom that belonged to the school, students and myself. Papers that teachers had in their mailboxes were either misplaced or removed from my mailbox, making it more difficult for me to carry out my professional duties. I mentioned this to my principal, Dr. Windmueller, and all she could say to me was that I was disorganized, and that I lost all the papers that were given to me via my mailbox. She did not believe me even though I put in 12-hour days and spent a lot of time in organizing my papers, planning for instruction and maintaining a highly enriched instructional program.
I was being bullied and discriminated against and my students were observing all of this every step of the way. How could I teach my students about the Zero Tolerance policy if their own teacher was being victimized? I tried very hard to ignore this behavior and tried to keep moving forward, but how much hostility can one person take? Why was this happening to me and who was doing this to me? In a little over two years, the principal and her coordinator removed 10 teachers from Selma out of a staff of 14 teachers.
The following school year, in 2011-2012, I was moved upstairs and to the other side of campus. Again, items became missing, and things were taken in such a way, that only a teacher or a person who has/had been in the classroom would know. For example, 10 English Language Arts tests were taken out of a set of 22, which caused disruption to my educational program. Along with homework packets and assessments for students, my personal teachers plan book was removed in addition to the schools illness/health cards, OSLAT testing results, Super Hero projects, Autobiographies, CDs, Math teacher's guides, student writing projects, portfolios, etc.
Again, when I notified the principal about the items that were being removed from the classroom, she was verbally abusive to me while speaking on the school phone, calling me names such as: disorganized, paranoid, delusional, racist, as well as telling me that I had serious mental problems. I was under the impression that psychiatrists have the legal and medical authority to diagnose a person as such.
Dr. Windmueller has a Ph.D., not an M.D. The principal was always on the attack and not once offered
me any genuine support. I did not feel safe at school and my students were getting upset that their writing journals and work went missing. I became anxious as a result of the principals abusive treatment towards me. I became afraid to ask the Leadership Team for anything.
I am sitting in teacher jail since March 1, 2012, and have sat through: three District meetings, that resulted in-- four causes, six charges, one Unsatisfactory Notice of Service Act, a 15-day suspension without pay and dismissal from LAUSD. These meetings were pointless, because my presentation materials were not read and the District administrators had made their decision to dismiss me well before my dismissal and suspension meetings were held on: 4/18/2012, 10/30/2012 and 11/5/2012. I understand that I "crossed the line," when I demonstrated to my 3rd graders how I check my blood sugar and tested four student volunteers, having been caught up in the teachable moment. My demonstration and hands-on experiment came from a place of good intent and not one of moral turpitude. My students and I had spent a lot of time learning about the importance of cooking and eating healthy foods, exercising and getting plenty of rest. When a parent came to my room and told me that a 6th grader had just been diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2, I wanted to alert my students and prevent this condition from happening to them as well.
I have been removed from my school and have endured the discipline that has been meted out, but I do not deserve to be terminated, which would be excessively harsh punishment, due to the fact that-- no one was harmed, the four sets of parents refused to press charges against me, the police did not file a report, and-- my students awareness of Diabetes had become more heightened as a result of this experiment. Should I have gotten parental permission? Yes. Should I have told the principal? Yes. However, my anxiety about keeping my students engaged became such a priority, and as the result of being closely scrutinized by the principal and her spies, I knew, first hand, what happens to students and teachers when the passion for learning and teaching dies.
Removing my ability to be employed after 26 years of service is discriminatory because I will not have medical benefits, I will be unable to teach again, and my pension will not be nearly enough to support a family of four. I have been loyal to the District and have worked very hard in improving educational opportunities for minority students of color. I have written letters and emails and have tried to reach out to: (1) District personnel, (2) the Board of Education, (3) Union officials, (UTLA) (4) the ACLU, (5) the Los Angeles Times and to (6) the EEOC. My voice does not count because I am a 51-year old woman, and despite being a UCLA graduate, and having a son at UCLA who is double majoring in Math and History and is working on his senior thesis with Dr. Andrea Yeager, who is John Lithgows wife, having 26 years of teaching/coordinating/administrative experience with LAUSD counts for nothing and will be replaced by two less experienced and less expensive teachers, who may leave teaching within the first 5 years.
I have been "temporarily reassigned to the rubber room since March 1st, 2012. I have seen quite a few teachers, just like myself, who are senior, higher paid employees and are being fired because Superintendent Dr. John E. Deasy, wants bad teachers out, distracting the fact that Dr. John Deasy, himself, should have been fired because he was ultimately responsible for informing the Commission of Teacher Credentialing (CTC) about Mark Brendt and failed to do so. Instead, the 350 rubber room teachers are offered as a sacrifice for the Superintendent and administrative ineptitude.
I am not a child molester and neither are the other teachers and employees that serve time with me. LAUSD always blames the teachers for their negligence and incompetence and does not accept any responsibility for their misconduct and housing of innocent teachers who have been loyal to the District for decades, not years. LAUSD has more money than the city of Los Angeles, and does not follow their own policies and bulletins as well as Californias Education Code.
LAUSD gets away with doing whatever they want because public school administrators are immune from prosecution. LAUSD teachers continue to live in fear and are worried if they are going to be the next target. Teacher discrimination is the civil rights issue of the decade and the human rights issue for the 21st century. LAUSD will continue to harass and discriminate teachers as long as the culture of fear ruminates throughout the District, and anyone, who goes up against the LAUSD, is destroyed on every level of being: spiritually, economically, physically, psychologically, and professionally.
As a 51-year old female, who has Diabetes Type 2, the anxiety and harm that I experienced at Selma Ave. Elementary School as well as in the rubber room, was/is beyond normal. No one can understand how stressful it is to be bullied, ignored, mocked, and harshly criticized at a workplace setting that is supposed to model the democratic principles that our forefathers had lived and died for. My physical and emotional health has been my sacrifice to LAUSD and the Districts decision to terminate me is wrong. I deserve more than just another chance and will fight to protect my civil rights and the right to continue to work in my profession that I have dedicated a lifetime preparing and working for.