Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Granddaddy of the Rubber Room

In recent years, we've been treated to horror stories about the "rubber rooms," where public school systems dump teachers who are accused of wrong-doing, or simply incompetent. Thanks to union protection, these "educators" (and we use that term advisedly) report to holding areas while their cases wind through the system.

It usually takes years to get rid of a bad teacher, and they collect full pay and benefits while sitting in the rubber rooms. Many spend their days surfing the internet, sleeping, or even pursuing a second career (some of the dud teachers in NYC have earned real estate licenses while sitting in purgatory and sell properties from the holding rooms--all on the taxpayer's dime). When you consider that veteran teachers in New York can earn more than $90,000 a year, the rubber rooms represent a horrific waste of education dollars.

While it's not uncommon to find teachers who have spent four or five years on hold, the New York Post has discovered the "Granddaddy" of the rubber room set. Seventy-five-year-old Roland Pierre has been assigned to a holding facility since 1997, after he was accused of molesting one of his students. New York school system Chancellor Joel Klein refuses to put Pierre back in the classroom, despite the fact that criminal charges against him were dropped, and education department hearing officers let him off the hook.

So, Mr. Pierre keeps reporting to the rubber room each workday, drawing full pay and health care benefits. His current salary is just over $97,000 a year.

On June 26, 1997, Pierre, then 62, was arrested on felony sex-abuse charges after he allegedly called one of his students into an empty classroom where he taught English as a second language, closed the door and molested her.


The girl left and went to the administrative office, where she "burst into tears" and reported the incident, [investigators] said in a March 6, 1998, report on the investigation, released to The Post last week.

The report says Pierre refused to speak to investigators, but gave a two-page typed statement acknowledging that he had met the girl behind closed doors.

While Mr. Pierre reached retirement age years ago, he simply refuses to leave--and under union rules, the school system can't fire him. And there's little incentive for him to quit. Where else can you earn more than $100K a year (including benefits) for doing absolutely nothing?

Our sympathies go out to those of you living in New York. Roland Pierre is yet another example of what's wrong with our education system, and why public employee unions are literally killing our cities and states.


John from Pennsylvania said...

It is called due process. When I was a company commander I could not give a soldier a field grade article 15 under UCMJ. If I could convince my battalion commander that it reached to that level he would give the article 15 at his level. If there is an issue with a contract, contracts are negotiable. I know districts who like to let go of teachers who have been in the district for an extended period because they can hire two beginning teachers for the salary of the more experienced teacher when they have budget problems. In a city as big as NY, if they have a problem with a teacher they can look at putting them in a staff position developing curriculum or something like that where there is no contact with students until they are able to discharge them if that is their intent. I had an intel sergeant who was court-martialed and found innocent. It was either put him back in his slot or leave it empty until he rotated out of the unit. What would you do in that case? Things aren't always are easy to solve as they seem.

George Smiley said...

John--a couple of points. Obviously, Mr. Pierre survived the legal and administrative process. But more than a few guilty people walk free every day, for a variety of reasons.

And, as you observe, plenty of innocent individuals survive the judicial process and deserve another shot. More than a few teachers in NYC and other locations have returned to the classroom after cases were adjudicated in their favor. But that's not the case with Roland Pierre; something tells me that Joel Klein saw something in the report that told him the teacher was likely guilty and should not be returned to the classroom.

Then why not put him a curriculum development job or some other administrative post? Again, I'm reading between the lines, but it's probably a safe bet that Pierre was a mediocre teacher in the first place and no one wants him as part of their team. So, thanks to tenure and union protection, Mr. Pierre can sit in the rubber room until death (if he chooses) and still pull down $97,000 a year.

I agree that some issues may be more difficult to resolve than they might otherwise appear, but letting a guy sit in a rubber room for 7-8 years after his case was adjudicated is no solution.

So why hasn't Mr. Pierre been returned to the classroom? The charges against him have been legally a

John from Pennsylvania said...

If the head of the whole NYC school system says take this person to work in your department and evaluate him for on his job performance. I can't believe that someone is going to say no. If the guy does a good job, you are getting some work out of him. If he doesn't, you go through the process to fire him for poor performance. Just to let him sit there is not accomplishing anything other then wasting taxpayers money.

JP said...

seems that if he retired, he could pull even more in than his current salary. If his contract has the taxpayers footing his retirement as well as his salary, he is actually saving the taxpayers money by staying "on the job".
He could be pulling even more than the 97+ up to over 100+.