Staten Island teacher Francesco Portelos has been streaming live video of his stint in a pseudo Department of Education “rubber room” as he awaits a disciplinary hearing for charges dating back to April.
The Staten Island Advance reports Portelos was removed from his position as a computer technology teacher at Berta Dreyfus Intermediate School 49 and reassigned to an office in Ozone Park, Queens. According to Portelos, he was pulled from his post after he accused Dreyfus principal Linda Hill of financial misconduct. No charges have been levied against Hill. In a statement, a DOE spokesperson said Portelos was removed from the classroom because he “has been extremely difficult to work with, was transferred twice, and there are multiple investigations pending against him.”
The DOE’s so-called “rubber rooms” -- where teachers under investigation were sent to do nothing all day while still collecting their salaries -- were supposedly done away with in 2010. Instead, teachers were to be assigned administrative duties.
Some teachers, however, have said that they are not actually being assigned duties while their hearings are pending -- a claim that appears bolstered by Portelos’s live video feed uploaded Thursday.
In the video, Portelos can be seen sitting alone in an empty conference room with his laptop, the day’s papers and a sign proclaiming “I’d rather teach!!” He also has a miniature “Don’t Tread On Me” flag on display.
Portelos has been chronicling the saga on his blog, which includes a link to a Change.org petition to “reinstate Mr. Portelos to the classroom and take him out of the Rubber Room.” It has garnered nearly 700 signatures as of Monday morning.
“It’s just crazy, I never thought this would happen especially in the New York City Department of Education," Portelos told CBS Radio station 1010 WINS. "A $24 billion budget and I’m being paid $75,000 to sit here. It’s ridiculous.
“I’m not here because I’m a bad teacher, I’m not here because I did anything to anyone physically, I’m here because they were trying to shut me up and it backfired big time,” he continued.
Portelos has continued to upload instructional videos to his personal STEM website, and asks students’ parents to email him if they are interested in having their children take online classes.
Portelos' story echoes that of numerous New York teachers, most notably that of Roland Pierre, who by 2010 had been rubber-roomed for 13 years, collecting $100,000 annually in salary and benefits well past the minimum retirement age. He was taken out of the classroom in 1997 after being accused of sexual misconduct with a student, and the city didn't want to reinstate him in a teaching role. The trouble: the city also struggled to fire him.
The city has fought for years to fire teachers accused of various forms of sexual misconduct. Although independent arbitrators found evidence of wrongdoing, they decided that the educators' offenses were not grounds for firing, and instead issued mild penalties like a fine, and sent back to the classroom.
School officials say their hands are tied. Under New York law, tenured teachers have the right to a hearing with an arbitrator before they can be fired, and can appeal an arbitrator's ruling in civil court. While the Department of Education can also appeal an arbitrator's decision to state courts, legal standards for overturning those rulings are very difficult to meet.
On WOR Radio's John Gambling Show in April, Bloomberg quipped of the arbitrators' rulings, "maybe if you were a serial ax murderer, you might get a slap on the wrist." He noted that arbitrators, who are collectively chosen by the city and the teachers' union, might have also been driven toward milder penalties in an effort to keep their jobs.
So in May, Bloomberg proposed a new state law that provides high-ranking, local school officials the ultimate decision on whether school employees involved in sex cases should be terminated.
"There is simply no reason that teachers accused of sexual misconduct should have greater job security than other city employees," the mayor said at the time. "The fact that they currently do is wrong; it is dangerous; it is indefensible."
A Houston, Texas teacher and teacher's aide have been removed from their classroom for allegedly disciplining their pre-K students by placing them in custodial closets <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/25/monster-closet-used-to-pu_n_1546426.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">they nicknamed "monster closets."</a>
Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, a 47-year-old Zephyrhills High School science teacher in Zephyrhills, Fla., is under fire after<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/laurie-bailey-cutkomp-teacher-uses-dog-collar-to-punish-students_n_1506376.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink"> photos of her students wearing dog collars as punishment</a> for bad behavior surfaced on Facebook.
Clayton High School Principal Louise Losos resigned following a leave of absence after an accusation that Losos had created a Facebook profile <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/07/louise-losos-clayton-high_n_1495476.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">pretending to be a student named Suzy Harriston.</a>
A middle school teacher in South Carolina has been accused of dragging a student under a table during class, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/sc-teacher-facing-charges_0_n_1465762.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">telling the boy "this is what the Nazis do to Jews," police said.</a> The 12-year-old student said he got up to sharpen a pencil at Bluffton Middle School on Wednesday when Patricia Mulholland grabbed him by his collar and said, "come here, Jew," police said. The teacher then dragged him 10 feet under a table and made the comment about Nazis, according to police.
Jack Conkling, a Prairie Hills Middle School social studies teacher and Buhler High School assistant women's basketball coach in Buhler, Kan., is under fire <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/18/jack-conkling-teacher-writes-being-gay-just-like-being-a-murderer_n_1527608.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">after equating being gay to being a murderer</a> on his Facebook profile.
New York Teachers
Teachers at a Brooklyn elementary school are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/30/teachers-accused-of-givin_n_1556621.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">accused of giving their students the answers on standardized tests</a>. In return for high scores on those tests, teachers at Public School 94 were allegedly offered smaller classes and fewer non-English-speaking students.
George C. Marshall High School Teacher
A Virginia high school English teacher was under investigation for allegedly asking the only black student in the class <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/18/george-c-marshall-high-sc_n_1358044.html" target="_hplink">to read a poem in a "blacker" manner</a>. Jordan Shumate, a ninth-grader at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., says he was reading aloud Langston Hughes' "Ballad of the Landlord" when teacher Marilyn Bart interrupted him. "She told me, 'Blacker, Jordan -- c'mon, blacker. I thought you were black,'" Shumate said.
A teacher at Malibu High School in Malibu, Calif., was under investigation after ninth-grade student Dionne Evans went to local authorities claiming the educator <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/dionne-evans-malibu-high-_n_1563647.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">slapped her six times for not bringing her notebook to class.</a>
A kindergarten teacher in Georgia has stirred controversy after <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/bermuda-triangle-award_n_1571656.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">presenting one of her students with the "Bermuda Triangle Award," </a>honoring the student's desk -- or "the place where things go in but never come back out."
Kathleen Pyles, a math teacher at North End Middle School in Waterbury, Conn., was on paid leave while school officials investigate allegations that she addressed a black student with a racist remark. Parents and the NAACP spoke out during a Board of Education meeting, accusing Pyles of inappropriately <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/kathleen-pyles-connecticu_n_1580779.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">calling a student "black boy" when she couldn't remember his name</a>.
Union Elementary School Official
Parents in Clinton, North Carolina, were outraged after an assistant principal <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/third-grader-strip-search_n_1609415.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">gave a third-grader a strip search</a> there. The Union Elementary School official believed the boy had stolen money and ordered him to strip to his boxers.
A Tampa Bay, Fla. school teacher <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/20/florida-teacher-suspended_n_1613309.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">was suspended for three days without pay </a>after allowing one of her students to write and present a speech that criticized a former Oakstead Elementary teacher by name.
Matt Hansen, a 38-year-old teacher for the Fort Zumwalt School District in O'Fallon, Mo., has been charged with felony possession of child pornography after a local cyber crimes unit found<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/matt-hansen-former-missouri-teacher-accused-of-taping-80-boys-undressing_n_1628926.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink"> he allegedly videotaped 80 male students undressing</a>.
Diane John, the mother whose 15-year-old son suffered a beatdown at the hands of much larger teacher Stephan Hudson, sought criminal charges against the offending public school dean and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/brooklyn-mother-suing-cit_n_1637930.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">sued the city for $5.5 million</a> after being shown surveillance footage of the incident.
Steve McClenning and Billie Madewell
The Scholars Academy Principal Steve McClenning and assistant Billie Madewell <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/27/arizona-principal-caught-in-make-out-session-fired_n_1459968.html" target="_hplink">have both lost their jobs</a> at the Quartzsite, Ariz. school after the two were caught passionately making out on video.
Audrey Grabarkiewicz, a 46-year-old preschool teacher at Lake Bowen Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/01/audrey-grabarkiewicz-teacher-avoids-jail-for-teen-sex-parties_n_1641676.html" target="_hplink">managed to avoid jail time</a> despite being arrested for throwing alcohol and sex parties for teens last year.
A Texas teacher lost her job after ordering <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/16/district-texas-teacher-ha_n_1601980.html?utm_hp_ref=school-bullying" target="_hplink">more than 20 kindergartners to line up and hit a classmate</a> accused of being a bully. The teacher at a suburban San Antonio school is accused of orchestrating the slugfest after a younger teaching colleague went to her seeking suggestions on how to discipline the 6-year-old, according to a police report from the Judson Independent School District.
Bronx teacher Marcy Rubenstein allegedly duct-taped a rowdy student to his chair while other classmates laughed and pushed him around, after she became irritated that the student <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/teacher-duct-tapes-studen_n_1609459.html?utm_hp_ref=school-bullying" target="_hplink">repeatedly got up during a test.</a>
Indiana teacher Samuel Fies <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/14/samuel-fies-indiana-teach_n_1148383.html?ref=Education&ir=Education" target="_hplink">was fired from Highland High School</a> after he was arrested and charged in December 2011 with multiple counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, child molestation, criminal confinement, child solicitation and attempted child seduction.
Ohio science teacher John Freshwater was fired in early 2011 after being accused of preaching religious beliefs in class and keeping a Bible on his desk. Freshwater appealed the firing, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/john-freshwater-ohio-scie_n_997996.html" target="_hplink">a judge upheld the decision in October 2011.</a>
Jill Lyle, a substitute teacher in Santa Fe, N.M. was fired in November 2011 after she was<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/jill-lyle-santa-fe-substi_n_972437.html" target="_hplink"> reportedly found passed out drunk while on the job.</a>
Sean Loftis, a Florida substitute teacher who starred in gay porn films under the pseudonym Collin O'Neal, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/24/sean-loftis-gay-porn-star-fired-teacher_n_935199.html" target="_hplink">lost his teaching job in October 2011</a> after his X-rated activities came to light.
Andrew Harris, a science teacher at Glacier Creek Middle School in Cross Plains, Wis. first lost his job for looking at porn at work. The school district decided in March 2012, however, that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/02/andrew-harris-teacher-who_n_1317517.html" target="_hplink">he would be offered to be reinstated and given back pay and benefits estimated at $200,000.</a>
An unnamed teacher at Tallulah Elementary School in Tallulah, La. was fired in March 2012 after she failed to notice two third grade students <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/third-graders-oral-sex-tallulah-elementary-school_n_1375399.html" target="_hplink">allegedly having oral sex under a classroom table.</a>
A teacher at the Friendship Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. was fired after she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/christian-washington-taped-to-chair-by-teacher_n_1341817.html" target="_hplink">allegedly taped Christian Washington, a 9-year-old vision-impaired student, to his classroom chair.</a>
A Washington, D.C. teacher was fired in March 2012 for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/05/teacher-fired-for-giving-_n_1322173.html" target="_hplink">sending home violent, morbid and traumatizing math problems</a> to third graders at Center City Public Charter School's Trinidad campus.
Teacher Brooke Harris says she was let go from her position at Pontiac Academy for Excellence in Pontiac, Mich., in March <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/10/brooke-harris-michigan-teacher-fired-trayvon-martin-fundraiser_n_1414870.html?ref=Education&ir=Education" target="_hplink">after attempting to help students organize a hoodie-themed fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin.</a> In this AP photo, a man wears a hoodie and a scarf with the likeness of Trayvon Martin during a "One Thousand Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin" event Thursday, March 29, 2012 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Renee Jones Schneider)
Jarretta Hamilton, a fourth grade teacher, was fired from the Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Fla. in 2009 because the child she was carrying <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/10/jarretta-hamilton-teacher_n_1416122.html?ref=Education&ir=Education" target="_hplink">was conceived two months before she and her husband married. </a>
Indiana teacher Emily Herx says she was fired from her Roman Catholic school -- St. Vincent de Paul school in Fort Wayne -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/catholic-school-ivf_n_1453524.html?1335557656" target="_hplink">for using in vitro fertilization to try to get pregnant.</a>
Meredith Burris Pruitt
31-year-old Meredith Burris Pruitt was fired in March 2012 from Forestview High School in Gastonia, N.C. after she was accused of selling, and employing students to help sell,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/03/meredith-burris-pruitt-teacher-arrested-for-using-students-to-sell-drugs_n_1400135.html" target="_hplink"> prescription drugs around the school.</a>
Jeffrey Robert Sears Jr.
Jeffrey R. Sears Jr., a 29-year-old former teacher at Glen Burnie High School, faces more than 50 years in prison after allegedly having sex with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/jeffrey-robert-sears-jr-accused-of-sex-acts-with-students-at-school-in-car_n_1432069.html" target="_hplink">15 and 16-year-old students over the course of two years.</a>
Megan Denman, a 29-year-old social sciences teacher at Hoover High School in Fresno, Calif. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/12/megan-denman-teacher-arrested-for-having-oral-sex-with-student_n_1421237.html" target="_hplink">was placed on paid leave in the spring of 2012</a> for allegedly performing oral sex on and sleeping with a student who was under the age of 18.
California teacher Stacie Halas was fired from Richard B. Haydock Intermediate School in April 2012 for<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/19/stacie-halas-fired-porn-film_n_1437467.html?1335557660" target="_hplink"> performing in a pornographic video.</a>
Bernadette Camacho, a 39-year-old teacher in Queens, New York, was fired from Hillcrest High School in January 2012 after reportedly telling students they had their <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/bernadette-camacho-former-teacher-fired-for-badmouthing-students_n_1181678.html" target="_hplink">"brains in their ass" and attempting to bribe them to keep quiet.</a>
a bullying attack by peers -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/john-rosi-washington-midd_n_1841998.html?utm_hp_ref=school-bullying">and at some points, by the teacher</a>. The incidents occurred in February at a Gig Harbor middle school. Cell phone footage shows more than a dozen students dragging the then-eighth-grade boy around the classroom, carrying him by his arms and legs, burying him under chairs, writing on his feet and stuffing his socks in his mouth. The antics last about 15 minutes while teacher John Rosi watches, and later joins in.
North Carolina Teacher
A state investigation was been opened at Hudson Middle School in Caldwell County, N.C., following allegations that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/17/north-carolina-student-cardboard-box_n_1524239.html?utm_hp_ref=teachers" target="_hplink">a teacher forced a student with special needs to sit in a cardboard box</a> as a disciplinary measure.