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District recommends termination for Moffett

  • hope 204 letter

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The School District plans to terminate Hope Moffett, because she gave tokens to students that they used to leave class and attend a protest against the policies of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, specifically, the planned conversion of their school to a charter under Universal Companies, Inc.

The District decided that this act constituted “endangering the welfare of children” and removed Moffett from the classroom pending the outcome of the disciplinary hearings. The District set a “204 conference” – a termination hearing – for tomorrow at 9:45 a.m. A vote by the School Reform Commission on the case could occur as early as Wednesday, when it is scheduled to meet.

A letter sent to Moffett today by Assistant Superintendent for High Schools Linda Cliatt-Wayman recommends termination because she enabled students to leave school without parental permission, putting them in danger. Cliatt-Wayman said Moffett’s views opposing “the Renaissance initiative” had nothing to do with the recommendation and that she is “troubled” because Moffett still doesn’t acknowledge she put her students in danger.

UPDATE: Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan called the charges "ridiculous" and said the union would fight her termination.

Moffett reacted immediately.

“The idea that my personal beliefs regarding the takeover of Audenried High School are not relevant to the case against me is absurd. I stand by each and every choice I have made because I firmly believe that it is imperative that we as citizens stand up to corruption. Students, community members, and teachers cannot be denied a voice.”

The letter says:

“The fact that Ms. Moffett still does not see how enabling students to leave school premises without written parental permission presents a danger to students is very troubling to me. It is fortunate for everyone that nothing happened to any of the students on the day of their walkout, but I question the judgment of anyone who does not think that leaving school premises without parental consent poses a risk to their safety.

"No matter how hard she tries to make it so, through media interviews or commenting on stories about her, this is not, and never has been, about Ms. Moffett’s views on the Renaissance initiative or on the fact that she spoke at a SAC meeting or anywhere about her views. The fact that she disagrees with the initiative does not give Ms. Moffett the right to disobey directives. It does not give her the right to disclose confidential documents. It does not give her the right to make statements without regard to truth or accuracy, and it does not give her the right to endanger her students by providing them with the means to walk out of school and go downtown without their parents’ consent or the District’s knowledge. In short, it does not give her the right to violate state code or District policy. Ms. Moffett’s views on the plans for Audenried High School are irrelevant to this incident.

"No matter how strong her beliefs, Ms. Moffett’s actions endangered the safety of the children she is charged with protecting.

"The incident was unsatisfactory.”

It is a stunning development in a school system in which it is a rare event indeed for a teacher to be dismissed for any reason. Last year, just 25 teachers were rated unsatisfactory and even fewer dismissed as a result.

By all accounts, Moffett, 25, has been a top-quality English teacher, a Teach for America alumna who decided to stay with her students as they progressed from 9th to 11th grade. Her case has garnered national attention.

In an email today, Moffett told reporters that the District is recommending her termination. The Daily News and Inquirer also reported on the news.

Watch the Notebook for more on this developing story.

UPDATE: Text of PFT president Jerry Jordan's statement:

 “I am outraged that the district has given Hope Moffett notice of their intent to terminate her. The charges are ridiculous, and the PFT will fight to restore Hope to her teaching position and defend her for exercising her First Amendment rights.”

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Dale Mezzacappa

@dalemezz
Dale is a contributing editor at the Notebook. She has reported on education since 1986, most of that time with The Philadelphia Inquirer.