December 12, 2011
A teacher who received an unsatisfactory rating at the Bronx High School of Science will have that rating removed from his record after a judge ruled that it was assigned unfairly.
Peter Lamphere had gone to court to appeal an unsatisfactory rating he received when he was the union chapter leader at Bronx Science, where there are deep tensions between administrators and teachers.
Lamphere and other teachers said they had been targeted after speaking out against administrative policies. In February, Lamphere described his experience in the Community section:
In the fall of 2007, the math department welcomed a new assistant principal, Rosemarie Jahoda. Soon, however, we found that the newer teachers in the department were being subjected to a level of scrutiny and paperwork that was excessive. As soon as I spoke up about the issue, which was my responsibility as a member of a UFT consultation committee that met with the principal, I immediately began receiving unjustified disciplinary letters. These were quickly followed by groundless unsatisfactory lesson observation reports. I had had a spotless teaching record for my entire previous career, including at Bronx Science.
Last week, responding to a lawsuit filed by the state teachers union, Judge Paul Feinman granted Lamphere’s petition to have the U-rating overturned. (Feinman is the same judge who denied the UFT’s bid to halt school closures and co-locations last summer.) According to the petition, which was filed in July, the city had upheld the U-rating even after Bronx Science Principal Valerie Reidy declined to contest Lamphere’s appeal.
The decision means that once the city and union reach an agreement, called a judgment, Lamphere is likely to have the U-rating turned into a satisfactory one. Because salary increases are frozen when a teacher gets a U-rating, he is also likely to get the extra pay he would have received had he not received the U-rating in the first place.
In a statement today, Lamphere said the ruling should push the city to step in at Bronx Science.
“This is an alert to the Department of Education that they need to examine more closely what’s happening at Bronx Science,” Lamphere said. “It’s outrageous that they have chosen to look the other way while the school administration at Bronx Science has undermined the learning environment at what should be one of the crown jewels of the city’s educational system.”
Other teachers said the decision speaks to a broader need for continued protections for teachers, something Lamphere himself argued in a second Community section column this summer.
“Without tenure, this victory would never have happened as Lamphere would have been dismissed without any due process at all,” said Megan Behrent, a teacher who is active in the UFT, said in a statement.
Lamphere is awaiting judgment in a second case, over harassment because of his union activity at Bronx Science.