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By Andrea Peyser
January 23, 2017
Idealistic and dedicated, David Kent seems to have become a New York City public-school teacher for all the right reasons. And he says it cost him, big time.
The former Bronx high-school teacher alleges that he was chewed up and spit out by educrats — people he finds more interested in covering their own tails than in providing a tranquil learning environment for vulnerable students and overwhelmed educators. Driven out of the system, he says — for daring to complain about rotten and disruptive student behavior.
Rather than be lauded for his efforts to make learning possible for all, Kent says he was warned by an administrator not to make his school “look bad,” and ultimately fired — for caring too much.
That allegation is at the center of a lawsuit Kent filed earlier this month in Manhattan Supreme Court against the city’s Department of Education and its chancellor. And the suit’s outcome could help determine not only how far an educator may go to protect his turf and save his charges, but how far administrators may venture to silence a squeaky wheel.
Still, determining why any sane adult would want to wade into the educational cesspool is above my pay grade. But David Kent just wants his job back.
And from what I’ve seen and heard, I think he should get it.
Bronx kids deserve better. Bronx parents demand better.
In 2014, Kent was hired as a probationary ninth-grade social-studies teacher, a rookie status that afforded him virtually no job security, at Bronx Design and Construction Academy, a tough school serving grades nine through 12 that shares a building on East 151st Street with two others. Specializing in providing hands-on training in construction trades and architectural drafting, Bronx Design, whose student body recently numbered 427, serves 84 percent male and 16 percent female students, nearly 99 percent of whom are minorities, according to the most recent Department of Ed statistics.
Poverty may be the school’s greatest challenge. About 92 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. And, in a tragic nod to these violent times, kids must pass through metal detectors as they enter the school.
That didn’t mean Kent would ever give up. His downfall began, Kent’s suit alleges, after he detailed instances of bad student behavior, in writing, and brought them to the attention of the administration. Hey, school-system rules say that’s what he’s supposed to do!
But Kent states in court papers that, in March 2016, he was called into a meeting with Alrick Crowe, the assistant principal.
“In that meeting, Assistant Principal Crowe stated words to the effect of, ‘Be careful what you write about students because it could come back to hurt the school,’” the suit states.
Weeks later, Kent says he was hit with a disciplinary letter from the principal, Abigail Lovett. “The letter to Petitioner from Principal Lovett criticized Petitioner’s submission of student anecdotal write-ups concerning student behavior in Petitioner’s classrooms,” the suit says.
Things quickly went south from there, he claims.
Even though the principal’s note was the only disciplinary letter in his file, Kent claims Lovett informed him “that she was recommending disciplinary action, which may include termination of the Petitioner’s services.” But although officials presented him with a teacher-improvement plan, Kent alleges that they failed to schedule meetings with a school-appointed overseer.
Last June, Kent was canned.
I reached out to Crowe, but he hung up the phone on me. As for Lovett, she left the school this past October, after the beginning of the academic year. A DOE spokesman says it was for reasons unrelated to Kent’s firing.
David Kent, who is represented by a lawyer working for the United Federation of Teachers union, doesn’t ask for much. He wants to be reinstated to a job that paid him $65,498 a year, as well as receive back pay and damages, including attorney fees.
He should get it all.
City kids can ill afford to lose a classroom teacher who evidently cares more about his students than his career.