February 15, 2012
A city teacher is in trouble after she required her students to craft holiday cards for a prisoner in an upstate jail.
Melissa Dean had her fifth-grade class at P.S. 143 in Queens decorate cards for people who were lonely during the holiday season, then mailed the cards to a friend imprisoned after convictions on weapons charges, according to a report out today from the office of Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon.
Hoping to get a response, some of the students shared their names and addresses with the prisoner, according to the report, which comes as the city is reeling from the arrests of aides at two different schools on sex abuse charges.
Condon is recommending that Dean, who started at P.S. 143 in 2004 and was reassigned to an office during the investigation, be fired and prohibited from ever working in the city schools again. Department of Education officials said they would indeed seek Dean’s termination.
As with many reports from SCI, some of the details about the investigation are more interesting than the allegations themselves. Today’s report shows that Principal Sheila Gorski quickly informed the city after an upstate corrections officer alerted her to the package of letters, even though she could conceivably have hidden them and avoided an investigation. It also shows that the investigation proceeded swiftly, which is not always the case: Investigators learned about the letters when they returned to the office after Christmas. In the intervening month and a half, investigators talked to virtually every student in the class, even as they heard the same story over and over again.
The full report is below.