Usually my blog is focused on the students. Today my focus is on an 80 year old NYC teacher by the name of Ms. Lillie Leon. Below is a link to an article which discusses the firing of Ms. Leon:
Ms. Leon was fired by the DOE for insubordination after 32 years of service to NYCs children. Her termination, as it stands now, has nothing to do with her teaching practices or classroom management. I am not going to repeat the facts stated in the above article. I will only say that she was exposed to conditions in her school that did not honor the fact that she has a disability. She walks with a cane, and was placed in a kindergarten classroom on the third floor, with no adjoining bathroom. She was not given a teacher's aide, so every time the little ones had to use the potty, she had to walk her entire class of 25 to the bathroom, which was down the hall and through the cafeteria. She appealed to the administration, asking for accommodations, explaining that all this walking back and forth cut into her instructional time, and even requested to teach first grade, because they can go to the bathroom unaccompanied by a teacher. Every request was denied, and then she was fired, basically for requesting of the administration to respect her rights not only as a person with a disability, but an employee of the city of NY.
Here is a woman who has devoted her life to children. I saw her on the CBS news last night. She is soft-spoken and intelligent. She dresses with style and has a warm smile and soft, kind eyes. Instead of applauding her dedication to her students, she is disrespected, abused, and discriminated against. I got the impression from the interview that nothing made her happier than spending each day with her students, and she is disappointed not to be able to return to her school in September. Apparently, she chose not to retire because she'd rather be in the classroom teaching than move to Boca Raton. And yet, Ms. Leon will be easily replaced by a young, cheap, inexperienced teacher who will answer to every whim of the administration. Bit by bit, Bloomburg is finding a way to drive away experienced veteran teachers, who are the backbone of this system. I have witnessed it firsthand in my school. I have seen grown women reduced to tears because of the abuse bestowed upon them, when all they want is respect for their experience and credentials, and the opportunity to grow as a professional.
Every paycheck, for 32 years, (that's 768 paychecks) Ms. Leon contributed to her own pension so when she did choose to retire, she would be able to live somewhat comfortably. Now, might have no pension. Apparently, if someone is terminated at the DOE, they lose their retirement. What will happen to Ms. Leon? How will she survive without her retirement fund?? Why did they perceive her as someone so disposable?
I read several articles on Ed Deform every day, and boy do they get my blood boiling, but none of them have affected me emotionally the way this one has. These are the people I work for. The level of inhumanity is appalling. The mayor, the chancellor, and his cronies are disgustingly rich men who will literally steal a job from an elderly person who has shown them nothing but commitment. These men have no business leading one of the greatest cities in the world, because they are driving the very soul of it to the ground. It is shameful and heartbreaking to me, because I am a New Yorker to the very core. The people running the NYC DOE (the whole system) are a bunch of snakes. The principal of Ms. Leon's school is obviously one too. He/she did not defend her. Instead, he jumped on the political bandwagon and exposed Ms. Leon to embarrassing psychological tests, and later in the year, condemned her to teaching in the cafeteria. Then, he moved ahead with the city’s heartless corporate agenda and fired her.
Ms. Leon is suing the DOE for age discrimination. This is an opportunity for her to expose the corrupt nature of the entire system. I hope she fights and fights till she wins. If she must leave her valued post as a teacher, I hope she leaves kicking and screaming. She has nothing but my respect, support, and deep admiration.