The city’s school district dismissed an English teacher who taught at the district for more than three decades after she received two consecutive ‘partially effective’ ratings.
The teacher, Ardeena Long, challenged the dismissal arguing the district failed to properly conduct the annual evaluation in accordance with the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACH NJ) statute, a teachers’ evaluation law passed in 2012.
Long received “partially effective” rating in 2013-14 and 2014-15 evaluations prompting the district to bring tenure charges for “inefficiency.” She argued the district failed to include her in developing a corrective action plan (CAP), it also failed to disclose the grading rubric used to calculate the summative rating, and it failed to schedule post-observation conferences within the required 15 days.
The teacher also argued the district conducted the observation without a co-observer and it failed to conduct the six required walkthroughs. The district “consistently failed to conduct timely post-observation conference,” argued the teacher in fighting the tenure charges filed by the district on September 11, 2015.
“The partially effective rating given,” argued the teacher, “is entitled to no weight.”
The district defended its evaluation process characterizing the teacher’s responses as “excuses” and “pleas of ignorance.” It also presented three witnesses who evaluated the Yes Academy teacher.
Nicole Payne, who was principal of Yes Academy in the 2013-15 school year, testified she conducted the observations that year with a co-observer Wanda Kopic. Payne testified she met with the teacher to discuss improvements after the evaluation. The teacher did not disagree with the summative rating, she testified.
The district argued that it held the post-observation conferences in a timely fashion. The arbitrator in the case, Joel Weisblatt, found the district conducted the conferences within the 15 day requirement except in one instance.
“There is nothing about this single delay to suggest that it was a substantial deviation from the process or that it had any material affect [sic] on the teacher’s evaluations,” read Weisblatt’s decision issued on April 3rd, 2016.
In that one instance, the district conducted an observation on January 30th, 2014 and did not have a post-observation conference with the teacher until March 11, 2014. Long said that almost month and half was wasted time that could have been utilized to make improvements.
“The teacher’s testimony that she would have performed better with more timely post-observation conference was simply not compelling or credible,” wrote Weisblatt.
Payne testified she developed the teacher’s 2014-15 corrective action plan. She said the plan was devised following a meeting with the teacher and soon-to-be principal at the school Tanya Greene.
In both years the teacher’s input was taken to formulate the corrective action plan, according to the district’s filings.
The district also allowed the teacher to observe a classroom to take in best practices to use in her class. Danyel Cicarelli, a supervisor of English and language arts, suggested the effort was unsuccessful.
Cicarelli cited an example where the teacher “consistently” answered her own questions in the class instead of getting students to work the answer out themselves.
“The district provided ample evidence that the teacher was given the opportunity for support to improve her position,” wrote the arbitrator. The district though failed to conduct the required six walk through.
The arbitrator described the district’s failure as a “minor shortfall.” He concluded the lack of required walkthroughs did does not constitute a “substantial deviation from the evaluation process.”
Long also complained that the district did not provide her necessary information about the evaluation process. Payne, who serves as the director of alternative education, testified the teacher received training citing a PowerPoint presentation. She also testified Long was provided rubric and handbook for the evaluation both years.
Weisblatt sided with the district despite the two shortcomings in the evaluation process. He wrote in his decision the three witnesses the district provided, Greene, Payne, and Cicarelli were credible.
Long, who worked for the school system for 35 years, is no longer on the district’s payroll.