These are the original charges I received along with responses to each charge:
1. Ms. Brennan engaged in unprofessional and inappropriate conduct in violation of District policies, building expectations and professional standards by:
a. Failing to use prescribed common assessments for her courses;
Response: I used the common assessments stored on the curriculum drive. There were multiple copies of one assessment stored on the drive, and many times teachers were inadvertently deleting assessments or saving the wrong version of an assessment on the curriculum drive. Many teachers gave students incorrect versions of an assessment unknowingly because the storage system for these tests was flawed
b. Failing to meet administrative requests for student assessment information;
Response: at the time of this request, teachers were not required to keep assessments for any specific period of time. Given that my principal was requesting tests from the previous trimester that had ended three weeks prior, it is not reasonable to fault me for not providing every single copy of every assessment from the beginning of the school year. Another teacher stated she shreds exams the week after students take them, so had this particular teacher been asked to provide that same data, she would not have been able to either.
In addition, the English department was the last department to have any of their assessments put onto Data Director. Had Data Director been available to me, I would have been able to provide administration with copies of all student tests.
Further, I had a website that allowed students to take their assessments, including essays, online. Students could take a multiple choice test and get the results back immediately. This site also allowed students to submit writing assignments online which were returned to students with detailed comments. Students had a much more specific way to track their revisions as well as their overall progress with their writing skills. I was told at the end of the 2009/20010 school year that I could not use this website anymore, and that I had to use “Mooodle” instead. I asked if the school would provide training or pay for the training, and I was told the school would not do either. This website would have allowed me to store and retrieve student data electronically, and I would have been able to provide the information requested.
(At the start of this school year, I took the initiative to learn “Moodle” on my own and set up “Moodle” sites for each of my classes)
c. Failing to teach her students the prescribed curriculum;
Response: This is absurd. I followed the course overview for every class I taught. I was turning in lesson plans that reflect this. It’s disturbing that this allegation is being launched against me when, during a SIOP training session, a fellow English teacher discussed how her students never read To Kill a Mockingbird and that they simply watched the movie to prepare for the test. This is the same English teacher whose student transferred into my class with four weeks left in the trimester. When the student entered my class, she had not completed assessments for two of the three units in English 2A. So with four weeks left in the trimester, I was expected to deliver 12 weeks worth of material. I ended up working with the student’s guidance counselor to put together a plan that would allow this student to do some of the course work at home over the summer, course work that I agreed to grade on my own time. This is the same English teacher whose former student was in my English 3A course this year, who made the comment to my entire class, “We never had to read Of Mice and Men, we just watched the movie.”
I don’t like pointing fingers at a fellow colleague, but the allegation that I don’t deliver prescribed curriculum is ludicrous. I would suggest that administration take a closer look at what goes on in ALL classes.
d. Failing to use approved or acceptable grading practices in assessing student performance which resulted in inaccurate grades being put in Infinite Campus;
Response: At the end of the 2008/2009 school year, my principal asked me about tests that were found in my classroom that “appeared to be ungraded.” I explained how the tests had been graded, and he did not tell me that the paper copies of the tests had to be marked. Just because a paper or test does not have marks on it, does not mean it is ungraded. ACCURATE grades were entered on Infinite Campus, and if given the opportunity, I could justify any grade I entered.
e. Using materials which were not part of the approved curriculum and are unsuitable for some students in her classroom;
Response: If administration is referring to high interest books that are in my classroom, the English department adopted a policy of encouraging reading for pleasure and set aside 10-15 minutes of reading time three times a week. There is no other “material” I used which is not part of the “approved curriculum.” Again, I turned in weekly lesson plans which would show this, and they were approved by the administration
f. Paying a student to help her with her teaching duties and transporting the student home from school
Response: I’ve allowed students to help me with bulletin boards or assembling projects, but I’ve never allowed students to help me with my “teaching duties,” and I certainly did not pay them.
g. While off on a medical leave of absence, worked as a stripper at adult establishments located in Grand Rapids and Lansing;
Response: I take full responsibility for my actions regarding this matter. It was the single most disastrous, most humiliating, and most damaging mistake of my life, one that I will regret for the rest of my life. It has followed me for the last four years, and I have no choice but to deal with this issue head-on. I do want the board to understand that this was a time of great financial and emotional stress for me, and that my ex-husband and I were facing bankruptcy. In a stupid, misguided attempt to avert disaster, I allowed him to pressure me into gaining employment in an adult nightclub. Someone told me once, “There are no excuses, but there are reasons.” I want the Board to know that it was not a reckless disregard for morality or my faith in God that was at the root of this decision.
I think it should also be noted that this is an issue that should have been resolved four years ago. I was given assurances that I would face no further retaliatory action with regard to this situation. I am deeply concerned that it has once again been raised as relevant to the current situation. It seems to clearly demonstrate an attempt to, as Dr. Koeze stated to our union president, “…do what Rosemary Ervine was not able to do” by terminating my employment.
As I said, it was something for which I will forever be regretful and represents a time in my life I would wish upon no one else. My desire was that I would be able to put it behind me and return to teaching which I so dearly love. I am disappointed that, in reality, this was not the case.
h. Excessive absenteeism;
Response: In the course of the last three years, I’ve been embroiled in a highly contentious custody dispute with my ex-husband. In 2009/20010 alone, there were over seven different days that I was required to be in court. I was so afraid to miss anymore school that I did not attend a hearing in May which resulted in a show cause hearing and a significant fine. I am acutely aware of the importance of good attendance, and it is as frustrating for me as it is administration when I have to be absent from school. The positive news is that the legal battles are nearly over, and there is only one more court date that is scheduled for April.
i. Failure to leave lesson plans for substitute teachers;
Response: There is a medical issue that would explain why I did not send in lesson plans on Monday, October 18th. Other than that date, I am not aware of any time I simply failed to leave lesson plans. I also have an emergency lesson plan on file in my principal’s office.
j. Conversing on her cell phone during class time; and
Response: If I’ve ever used my cell phone during school, it was during my lunch hour which was regularly spent in my classroom working.
k. Failing to turn in lesson plans as directed.
Response: There was one instance when I turned in lesson plans for the week on a Tuesday rather than Monday, primarily because I had to consult with another teacher about the course overview for one of my classes. Other than that one instance, my weekly lesson plans were submitted every Monday without fail.
2. Ms. Brennan severely damaged her reputation with the student body, the District’s administration and the community by her conduct as specified in Paragraph 1 above.
Response: It’s distressing to hear from students and colleagues that my superintendent “has it out for you” and that she purposely leaked the information about working in an adult nightclub to her daughter in an effort to humiliate me. And it’s frustrating that when I run into students out in the community now, and they tell me “Mr. Tulgetske told us you had a nervous breakdown.”
I realize that I’m not perfect and that I have areas of growth I can work on. But to purposely sabotage a teacher to fulfill a personal vendetta is wrong. To use the school district’s money to carry out that vendetta is also wrong.
I urge the West Ottawa School Board to think carefully about the legitimacy of these claims and to ask yourselves, “Is this right course of action?” I’ve had three different colleagues contact me at home in recent weeks, and all have complained of unprofessional conduct of Dr. Koeze. Specifically, they are angry and frustrated about the fact that Dr. Koeze manipulated her daughter’s transcripts in an effort to cover up a failing grade in Advanced Chemistry. I have no direct knowledge of the legitimacy of these claims, but I think it speaks to her character. If these claims are true, and she will misrepresent the truth in one situation, wouldn’t she misrepresent the truth in another situation as well? Dr. Koeze will be gone in June, but the board will still be here. And the board will be the one to explain to the public why so much money has been spent on this issue needlessly.
Please consider my responses to these charges carefully before you vote to end the career of a dedicated, sincere teacher. I moved to the West Ottawa district three years ago, my three children go to school here, I bought a house here – I have invested everything I have in my life here. All I want is to be able to do my job without the constant cloud that has followed me for the last four years – the threat of termination.
This is a copy of the original charges filed by the West Ottawa Board of Education and my responses to each of the charges.
There are very few instances when I agreed to bring a student home. One involved a student whose older sister was expecting a baby. She got a phone call during class telling her the baby was going to be stillborn because the cord was wrapped around his neck. When she got home she called me and asked if I would bring her to the hospital because no one was home at her house. She got permission from her sister (with whome she lived) for me to bring her to the hospital. The other time I gave a student a ride home was when a student who lived on the south side of Holland couldn't get a ride home from basketball practice. I talked with the student's mother directly to get permission.
I was NOT on a medical leave. Summer break is not contractual work time. As well, anytime I've been absent over the sick days we are given was unpaid.
Contrary to what some people have said, the court does NOT work around anyones schedule. If that was the case, no one would ever be in court because most people work during the day. There is absolutely NO flexibility in the dates and times individuals have to be in court and I did NOT have an attorney at the time to be there in my stead.
This was not a conversation I initiated, nor entertained. It was a comment made to me when a student stopped me at the grocery store.