Thursday, January 20, 2011

FCPS Appeal of Hurley-Richards Decision Set for April

3 Judge Panel to Hear the Case

KSN&C readers have expressed interest in ongoing legal action between FCPS teacher Rosalind Hurley-Richards and district Superintendent Stu Silberman.

Here's what we've been able to learn so far.

The case originated from a tribunal in Fayette County. Whenever disciplinary action is taken against a teacher in Kentucky, she has the right to have that action reviewed by a tribunal.

Hurley-Richards was disciplined by FCPS for...something or other...and the tribunal upheld her suspension. (Stay tuned)

Ms. Richards, a second grade teacher at Liberty Elementary, filed a circuit court action in Fayette Circuit Court (09-CI-5311) appealing the tribunal's decision. In addition to Silberman and the Fayette County Board of Education, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday was named in the circuit court action along with the tribunal members.

KDE in-house counsel, (Yes, the state uses in-house counsel to save money over outsourcing legal services) Kevin Brown tells KSN&C,

"Naming the commissioner/tribunal members is not necessary as they are not the real parties in interest in an appeal of the tribunal decision as the commissioner is only responsible for appointing the tribunal and the tribunal acts as the judge in the original decision. However, some attorneys choose to add all possible parties as defendants and since the commissioner does maintain the administrative record, it is easier to get the administrative record certified if the commissioner is already a party. Thus, the commissioner and tribunal members, except for tendering the certified administrative record of the tribunal appeal, were not real parties in interest in this case. The appeal is between the district and the teacher.

The circuit court overturned the tribunal’s suspension of Richards and the district is now appealing that decision to the Court of Appeals (2010-CA-000840-MR). KSN&C has not yet learned the grounds for the appeal. The court of appeals action does not name the commissioner or the tribunal members as parties.

Court of Appeals administrator Sam Givens tells KSN&C that the case has been slated for April but the court has not yet selected a specific date.

Rosalind Hurley Richards

According to E. K. Potter (in Kentucky Women: Two Centuries of Indomitable Spirit. 1997. Louisville: Big Tree Press.) Rosalind Richards (1947- ) is "a teacher on the cutting edge of education reform who encourages and celebrates change, one who blends the best of the past with the promise of the future." At a time of elevated interest in positive role models among African American teachers in Fayette County, Hurley-Richards designed a classroom model for a professional learning and working environment at Squires Elementary. Her work netted her Elementary Teacher of the Year honors in 1996. In 1997 she was named Kentucky Teacher of the Year, and was a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. She was also the recipient of a Milken Family Foundation $25,000 award in 1997.

I always though of Hurley-Richards' approach as similar to that of famous Chicago educator Marva Collins. She used allegories to teach philosophy, emphasized journal writing, and encouraged students to engage their personal experiences. She was also thought of as a "handful" when it came to following whatever plan the school laid out for the faculty. As I recall from conversations with Jay Jordan, her principal at the time, Hurley-Richards enjoyed some level of insulation from Superintendent Peter Flynn that caused Jordan to feel handcuffed and resulted in friction between him and Flynn. Hurley-Richards was also a pilot teacher for the Kentucky Department of Education's Mathematics Portfolio Research and Development Project where she developed a new instructional model for the now defunct math portfolios.

In 2000 at Yates Elementary School, she established the Hurley Richards' "Fine Arts Literacy Cultural Center" to introduce young students to classic literature and the fine arts. "As Hurley-Richards described it,
By exploring different literary genres, students are exposed to the greatest thinkers of every age and culture. The broad emphasis on fine arts teaches art history and culture, aesthetic perception, creative expression, and art criticism. Relevant field trips to museums, theatres, (sic, get it?) and concerts are included, along with hands-on workshops and labs. By encouraging reading, writing, and verbal discipline, the program improves students' test scores and their abilities to become stronger thinkers.
For this, she received the ING Unsung Heroes Award of $2,000.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for printing this, Dr. Day. I feel it is important for the public to know about these cases.

I know that whenever a teacher or principal sues Stu Silberman, many say "These are just bad teachers who don't want to adhere to the principle of "It's About Kids." I'm pleased Mrs. Hurley-Richards will have her day in court.

Let the readers decide for themselves whether or not Mr. Silberman continues to strongarm teachers and principals with whom he is dispeased.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Day, you remain committed to shedding light on the important issues in education.

Over the recent holiday season, I sat down and chatted with some retired minority teachers who were teaching during the desegregation of public schools in the '60's. They shared stories from that era. I asked their opinion of the current state of education. They believe that public education is in worse condition today, for minority students and teachers than it was prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

Mrs. Hurley-Richards' case is an example of the "critical crossroad" or "critical mass" of public education that was the impetus of our discussion.

Richard Day said...

January 20, 2011 5:32 PM
I haven't seen any evidence that Silberman had anything against Hurley-Richards, or was out to get her. It is not alleged in the record.

I agree that Silberman ought not go outside the law to strong arm teachers. Neither should any teacher go outside the law to manhandle students.

January 23, 2011 10:54 AM:
Since posting this story, I've started hearing comments from FCPS folks with their own speculations. Most folks seem conflicted over this case. Folks who are not in love with Silberman (and, one gets the sense, wouldn't mind seeing him humbled) also see Hurley-Richards as suspect. Known as a tough teacher (who makes much of high standards of behavior) - more than one wondered if she manhandled the lad. That these observers see that possibility as consistent with her personality is bothersome, but may or may not be true.

I'm having trouble understanding exactly what the message of your colleagues was, but there was certainly a bittersweet aspect to desegregation. Prior to that time, the African American community was more contiguous/insulated/supportive of one another - more of a unified community. I imagine a lot of folks lament that loss of community closeness and looking out for one another. "The village" reared many children and the brightest and best were teachers. But I would not trade today's educational opportunities for those available in the 1960s for my grand kids.

Anonymous said...

I teach at a FCPS high school. The day after this story broke, we were told that Stu's new aim is to make sure that FCPS black students have a mentor. My principal said that is Stu's new priority. Something is fishy here.

Richard Day said...

Hummmmm. Interesting. You suspect a little public relations effort at work here?

Or perhaps, Silberman is finally being responsive to claims KSN&C has made that FCPS has steered away from the kinds of efforts that provide such support for students.

For example, I remember when recruiting and retaining the best African American teachers was a district priority and any superintendent who was less than enthusiastic about that would be called out publicly and loudly with no confidence votes and demonstrations. But Silberman has effectively incorporated/neutered the district's civil rights critics while the number of black teachers in Lexington declined.

Incidently, when I asked for the district to verify faculty data that showed that decline (Gosh, this has been a couple of years ago now) I got no response from HR chief Melodee Parker. Well, that's not quite fair. She did respond and say she would get back to me. Then she didn't.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Day, I think you would find it interesting to look at the number of African Americans who were terminated or non renewed, say---in the last 10 months or so. I think you would find a large number in proportion to the number of African Americans even employed... The Board's General Counsel and Civil Rights Compliance Officer are two who come to mind immediately. I can think of others at central office and, transportation and various schools....might make for an interesting open records request and story...the HL won't do it, so we are relying on you!I'm just sayin'