If Florida public school administrators decide to convert their school to a charter school, they have the law on their side.
An administrative law judge’s ruling against the Miami-Dade school district last week was the first-ever ruling under Florida statutes that bar school districts from taking “unlawful reprisals” against employees who support charter conversions. But the question remains: Will those protections prevent school districts from derailing those efforts before parents and teachers can have their say, as happened in Miami-Dade?
According to the ruling by Edward Bauer of the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings, the district tried to deter efforts to convert the Neva King Cooper Educational Center to a charter school. When administrators kept at it, the principal and assistant principal were transferred out of their jobs into what their attorney, Robin Gibson, called a “purgatory kind of existence,” replacing their administrative duties with menial tasks like sorting crayons and organizing car keys.
Bauer ruled that was against the law, and that Alberto Fernandez, the center’s former principal, is entitled to $10,000 worth of bonuses he would have received if he had remained in his old job.
However, the district still managed to thwart the charter conversion. Bauer declined to reinstate the two administrators to their old positions, noting the law requires them to be returned to “equivalent” jobs and that there are new top administrators in place at the school.
Gibson said he will likely contest that part of the decision. For the time being, he said, “the district can privately congratulate itself on still being unscathed.”
Gibson said the ruling helps establish that if districts retaliate against employees who support charter school conversions, they’ll be breaking the law. Now, “the question becomes, what are they going to do in light of this decision?” Continue Reading →