In June of 2011, after her second year of teaching special education students at PS 15 in University Heights, Alice McIntosh thought she was doing a pretty good job. To her surprise, however, she received an unsatisfactory rating and found herself without a job at all.
“I was completely surprised,” she recalled. “I had no idea that they were going to fire me.”
After getting over the initial shock, McIntosh spent the next year on a roller coaster — appealing her dismissal and defending her right to teach.
A Fellow Fired
McIntosh, 49, was a part of the Teaching Fellows program that paid for her to get her Masters in Education from Pace University and placed her into the P10X program, a special education outfit that is in schools throughout the Bronx.
There were problems from the beginning, she said. After McIntosh and her principal signed an agreement for her, as a new teacher, to be provided mentoring, McIntosh says she never received the support she was promised.
Still, she thought she was on the right track and didn’t receive feedback otherwise until the end. P10X Assistant Principal William Green discontinued McIntosh’s probation (essentially firing her) after giving her a “U-rating,” although his formal evaluations that year were generally positive, all ending in “This was a satisfactory lesson,” with Green’s signature. She also received satisfactory ratings the year before.
Green marked her unsatisfactory in areas such as adapting instruction to individual needs and capacities, but she argues that she tried to improve the curriculum so the materials were easier for her students to relate to.
“ assumes that the student is reading at least at third grade level,” McIntosh said.
Several of her students could not read. She also tried to use reading material that was less outdated and more relatable.
She also says they did not provide her with all the materials she was supposed to have, making it difficult for her to follow the curriculum that she was later accused of refusing to teach.
She even set up a meeting with Green a month before she was fired to propose changes and they talked about the curriculum for the next year as though she’d still be working there. When reached by phone, Green did not wish to comment on McIntosh’s discontinuance or appeal.
A ‘Sham’ Appeal Process
Her appeal hearing with the Department of Education took place Dec. 19, 2011. McIntosh called it “a complete sham.”
Administrators do not have to show up to the hearing, but instead can phone in. On top of that, McIntosh said the report of the hearing is sent to the superintendent who approved the U-rating in the first place, so “the same superintendent who essentially fires you has the final say of the appeal.”
Although she had been written up three times, McIntosh believes they were small mistakes any new teacher could have made and not as exaggerated as the points the administration made against her during her appeal.
“To this date, the administration of P10X has not really shown any evidence…to the allegations they have lodged against me,” she stresses.
The Fight Continues
She thinks the lack of investigation makes it extremely easy for schools to fire new teachers with no checks and balances. After her appeal was denied, McIntosh and her supporters rallied against the policies of the DOE outside the school she was fired from, PS 15 on Andrews Avenue in University Heights on May 6.
McIntosh does not believe that hers is an isolated case. “It happened to two other teaching fellows that I know of that same year,” she said.
While she doesn’t still think she could get her job back, she aims to raise awareness and put legislation in place “that holds administrators accountable for the development of new teachers.” She met with local State Senator Gustavo Rivera this June to discuss legislation.
Support for a Comeback
As a mom, community activist and Sunday school teacher, McIntosh has widespread support. When she was fired, her supporters began a letter writing campaign and sent the superintendent and the Chancellor each over 200 letters in her defense.
Gregory Gutierrez, a paraprofessional who worked directly with McIntosh, wrote, “The population that we work with can be difficult and Ms. Mac is good about her interactions with our students. She works hard to encourage our students while setting the tone for order and good behavior.”
Another paraprofessional, Zulma Montalvo, had worked at P10X for 19 years and said, “I found her to be very organized and articulate. She challenged her students and assigned them thought provoking assignments.”
Carolyn Griffin-Jones worked with McIntosh for the Literacy Fair at school and stated, “As a co-worker, she made all the staff comfortable and relaxed during a trying time.”
Pastor Doug Cunningham of New Day Church, where McIntosh is the Sunday school director, suggested that the bureaucracy of the DOE doesn’t like teachers to challenge their administration. “They have a problem with that kind of challenging even if it means raising the standard of education,” he said.
McIntosh first began substitute teaching while recovering from surgery in 2008 and that appears to be where she’s heading this fall after taking the year to focus on her appeal.
With her U-rating, she says the DOE did not want her to go back to substituting.
But she says Principal David Neering of PS 206 specifically requested her and McIntosh can’t wait to get back to doing what she loves.
“I’m going to teach in the Bronx again and I’m going to teach special ed,” she says. “If it means subbing for awhile, good.”
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