Fired teacher: "Don't be afraid to teach ESE"
Don't shy away from exceptional student education, former teacher Ingrid Peavy said, two days after losing her job with the Hillsborough County school district.
"The thing that really hurt me, I don't want anything bad to come of this," she told the Tampa Bay Times. "I feel like the kids are going to pay for this and I would not want the kids to pay. I feel like the best teachers need to be teaching ESE kids."
Peavy was responding to statements made after her termination hearing and in story comments. Coworker Aron Zions, during one emotional moment, told reporters, "I don't want another ESE student."
The School Board voted 4-3 to uphold the superintendent's recommendation to fire Peavy for failing to alert the administration, as she had been instructed, that one of her students had not shown up for her fourth period class at Pierce Middle School on Oct. 29, 2012.
The student was almost never in class, and Peavy assumed he was with the school's ESE specialist. An email had gone out days earlier with instructions to call if the child wasn't there. Peavy had seen the email, but there was no meeting iron out details of the plan.
The incident happened a week after Jennifer Caballero, a special-needs student at Rodgers Middle School, wandered off and drowned in a pond. Although the Pierce student walked home and was not hurt, the principal reported the incident to the Sheriff's Child Protective Investigations unit (CPI). That agency verified inadquate supervision, which all but compelled the district to fire Peavy.
It was a difficult dilemma, said school district spokesman Stephen Hegarty. If the district had kept Peavy in spite of her mistake, officials could be criticized for that decision.
Hegarty also took issue with the Times characterization of "three sympathetic Hillsborough County School Board members," pointing out that all seven board members appeared sympathetic, and indeed several of them said they were.
Coverage of the termination hearing and board vote struck a nerve with ESE parents, teachers and former teachers, and some contacted the Times.
Parent Alexia Drapola, who has an eighth grade student at Pierce, said, "he doesn't think it's fair either. She's a great teacher." Drapola said there are plenty of other problems with ESE, from not enough aides to buses that arrive late. "There's more stuff the school board could be addressing," she said.
Parent Yenitza Rodriguez, whose son has attended multiple schools because of muscular distrophy, said she knows Peavy personally and was saddened by the news of her firing.
"When I saw this article, my heart went out to Ingrid and the disabled boy," she wrote in an email to the Times. "We need to find a solution because it takes a special person to have the desire to help these kids."
Board member Susan Valdes, who tried unsuccessfully to overturn the recommendation to fire, used Facebook and Twitter to express her disappointment.
"I am disgusted by the administration and a few of my colleagues," Valdes wrote in a Facebook post that attracted several like-minded comments. "This teacher didn't deserve this."