A Case for Teacher Tenure: The David Suker Story


PART I (Lessons from a Bureaucracy)

David Suker is a New York City native. When it came time for him to choose a college, this young white man opted for Howard University, one of the most prestigious black colleges in the nation. He disliked the de facto segregation in the schools he attended here in New York, so he placed himself in a completely different educational setting when he got the chance.

This type of awareness is rare for someone so young. It is even rarer for someone so young to allow this awareness to guide him in making such a major life decision. Two decades later, it would be this awareness and courage that got David Suker terminated from his position as a teacher in the New York City Department of Education.

Shortly after graduating college, David returned to New York as a newly minted history teacher. He sought to make an impact on the school system that was so repugnant to his sense of justice. It was 1998 and New York City’s school system was called the Board of Education. By that time, the Board had earned a reputation as an inefficient and incompetent government bureaucracy that had outlived its usefulness in the private sector worshipping decade of the 1990s.

But David Suker’s problems with the Board of Education were not born out of impatience with the fact that it did not operate like a sleek corporation. His problems stemmed from being a first-hand witness to the injustice it perpetuated. The booming economy of the 1990s caused a teacher shortage, which meant that David could have plied his trade in almost any school he desired. What does it say about his character that he chose to start his career at a juvenile detention center in the Bronx, a place even the most fearless teachers dare not tread? While the education reformers were meeting around oaken conference tables scheming over how to remake the school system in their own image, David Suker would be meeting with the most forgotten children in the city to help them remake themselves.

It did not take long for him to witness as a teacher the types of injustices in the school system that had so repulsed him as a student. The children he was teaching in the detention center were being routinely brutalized by the corrections officers. When David questioned why this was being tolerated, he was promptly reassigned to an offsite office in order to shut him up. A week later, a principal named Robert Zweig picked him up off the scrap heap, so to speak, and hired him as a teacher for a program known as Offsite Educational Services. He would help children in places like housing projects and drug rehab centers get their GEDs. Once again, David Suker would help give the forgotten children of New York City one last chance.

Like most teachers, David started hitting his stride after his fourth year or so of teaching. The students with whom he worked had been written off by the rest of the school system. They had one last shot at some form of graduation by getting their GEDs. David Suker prepared his students for their GEDs not through rote test prep but by helping them appreciate the art of learning. Instead of drilling them in how to game an exam, he helped them navigate the New York Times in order to demonstrate how reading helps make sense of the wider world. In a program that routinely helped a mere 15% of students get their GEDs, David Suker was able to help 100 students get their equivalencies in a span of 3 years. By 2004, David Suker had arrived as a teacher.

Unfortunately, he was not the only one who had arrived. As David was giving his kids one last chance at a better life, Michael Bloomberg was getting his first chance at killing New York City’s public schools. Bloomberg did away with the clunky Board of Education and replaced it with a supposedly streamlined Department of Education headed by himself. To ensure this new system would run like a corporate machine, he installed middle management types in supervisory positions all over the city. Principals, superintendents and even his chancellor, Joel Klein, would institute Bloomberg’s reforms without dissent or delay. For David Suker’s “district” of forgotten children, known as District 79, Bloomberg installed Cami Anderson as superintendent. Anderson was a darling of Joel Klein. She would later use the slash-and-burn method of school reform she learned here in New York City with great effect as Newark’s schools chancellor.

In order to establish her reformer credentials, Anderson sought to shake up this “failing” district. The children of District 79, the children who were reared first under “Giuliani Time” and then under Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk duchy; the children who had seen their neighborhoods gentrified; the children who had their social services cut year in and year out; the children who had been the biggest victims of Bloomberg’s crusade to turn New York City into a playground for billionaires; the children to whom David Suker had dedicated his career apparently were not making “adequate yearly progress” in filling out the correct bubbles on standardized exams. District 79 was ripe for “reform”.

The reform of District 79 could not follow the template that had been established in other districts. There were no charter schools looking to co-locate there. Charter operators like Eva Moskowitz do not exactly clamor to take on the types of students with whom David Suker worked. Instead of co-locating, Cami Anderson would “reorganize”. She consolidated the various incarnations of Offsite Educational Services into a handful of programs in order to run them on the cheap. To save even more cash she required every teacher in the district to reapply for their jobs, including David Suker. This was a way of circumventing tenure to get rid of expensive veteran teachers. Since the quality of David’s teaching was never in doubt, since he was not quite an expensive 15 or 20-year veteran and since Teach for America wunderkinds were not knocking on the door to teach in District 79, David was rehired by an independent panel of administrators, teachers and parents. This gave David a front-row seat to Anderson’s criminal shakedown of the forgotten children of District 79.

Helping Anderson shakedown the district was none other than Robert Zweig, the principal of Offsite Educational Services who had hired David Suker back in 1998. Zweig was Anderson’s inside man. He helped Anderson turn Offsite Educational Services, a typically utilitarian Board of Education moniker, into “GED Plus”, a typically Madison Avenue Department of Education moniker. It was an open secret that Zweig was in line to be promoted to Deputy Superintendent for his role in helping Anderson “reform” District 79. This meant that Zweig and his school were on the bureaucratic radar. Everything he did was being watched by Anderson, Joel Klein and possibly even Bloomberg himself.

This news did not bode well for David Suker. Part of being a great teacher is being an advocate for one’s students. If he did not have enough resources for his students, Zweig would hear about it. If students did not have access to proper facilities, Zweig would hear about. Other teachers at OES or rather, “GED Plus”, would also hear about it. David was a textbook example of the type of teacher tenure was designed to protect: the one who did not allow administrators to shortchange his children. His courage was a thorn in Zweig’s side, as Zweig would remind him every year by writing him up for one petty infraction or another. There was that time in 2004 when Zweig gave David a “U” rating for the year for being absent 11 times when the contractually allotted number of absences is 10. 11 absences hardly constitutes a case of gross absenteeism, and Zweig knew the 11th absence was due to David’s plane making an emergency landing on another continent, but he took the opportunity to give him a “U” anyway as a friendly reminder of who called the shots at OES.

However, friendly reminders were not enough anymore. Zweig had to show Cami Anderson that he inoculated his teachers against opposing her reforms. Instead of just being a schoolhouse rabble rouser, David Suker became a liability, someone who threatened Zweig’s coveted climb up the bureaucratic ladder. In 2007, when OES was in the process of being rebranded “GED Plus” and half the teachers stood to lose their jobs, the staff had an end-of-year meeting with Zweig where they applauded his many years of service. This applause was music to Zweig’s bureaucratic-climbing ears. Of course, only one teacher questioned the applause. Only one teacher asked why his colleagues were being fired for the “failure” of the program while the principal stood to be promoted. That teacher was David Suker.

At the last graduation ceremony for OES before its rebranding, some students hung up scathing cartoons they had drawn criticizing the program’s administrators. It was doubtless the students had been feeling the pressure of Cami Anderson’s reforms as well and were not happy about them. Principal Zweig saw the hand of David Suker behind this, since David was both a critic of these reforms and a popular figure among the students. Zweig had the assistant principal question David about it. Nobody in the administration bought David’s denials. It was clear that David would be a marked man when he returned next school year to work in GED Plus.

But nothing happened that year. In fact, the 2007-2008 school year was the only time David was not written up or given a “U” rating. Instead, Zweig was being investigated by the DOE for having an affair with one of his assistant principals. This assistant principal was also under investigation for a Youtube video that had surfaced of her rolling around on the floor in front of her students in an ambrosia-induced haze, ambrosia in this case being a cocktail of liquor and cannabis. These investigations meant they were too preoccupied to harass David Suker. By the end of the school year, Zweig learned he would not become Anderson’s deputy superintendent after all. Instead, he would get the special title of “Assistant” to the Superintendent and remain the principal of GED Plus. The uncovering of his schoolhouse love affair led to the dissolution of his marriage. One can imagine the type of mood Robert Zweig was in at this point. Someone was going to pay come next school year.

PART II (When the Conscience Calls)

In the summer of 2008, the Democratic Party was set to nominate its first black candidate for president at their convention in Denver, Colorado. Ever the history teacher, David Suker was there. As he was taking in the mountain scenes from the highway on his motorcycle, a big rig clipped him and sent him crashing onto the side of the road. The accident broke his jaw and gave him a serious case of road rash. Five days later, the school year started for teachers back in New York City. David Suker showed up to work that day with his jaw wired shut and covered in bandages from head to toe. His colleagues and doctors exhorted him to take some time off work so he could properly heal. A teacher without the ability to speak is like a major league pitcher without the ability to throw. So David placed himself on the disabled list until he was able to get back into the game.

Little did he know that his motorcycle crash was an adumbration for what would become of his career. David Suker turned the corner alright. Unfortunately, this corner led to a dead end.

Upon his return from the accident, David encountered a principal Robert Zweig with little appetite for controversy. Instead of allowing David to teach students, where he would surely find something else about which to complain, he put David on sentry duty in a stairwell of GED Plus. He would only be allowed to work with kids again once he passed a physical and mental evaluation by DOE doctors. David passed these evaluations, at which point he went back to work with the children of GED Plus. However, as soon as he was put back in the game, he was taken right back out again. David Suker was served notice that he was to report to the rubber room.

Why David Suker was rubber roomed at the start of 2009 was a mystery at first. Teachers in his position rarely discovered the allegations against them before they went to a termination hearing, the dreaded 3020a. Only later would David discover the supposed “misconduct” for which he was rubber roomed. It had to do with the way he dealt with two different students on two separate occasions. One was a troubled girl who started cursing out David Suker while filling out her GED application. David took her application away, threw it in the garbage and invited her back to try to fill it out again when she was in a less belligerent mood, which the girl eventually did. The second incident involved a girl who had threatened to kill any gay people in the room. She used her fingers to resemble a gun and started yelling “buck, buck, buck”. Not sure if there actually were any gay students in the room at the time, and not willing to take his chances, David asked the girl to leave so she could work on her own, which she did. These were the charges for which David Suker was rubber roomed for over a year. Even by the DOE’s malleable standards, these were frivolous accusations. This is why he was eventually returned to work without having to go through a 3020a hearing. This time he was sent to work at a site with more direct supervision, another “last chance” facility for students known as Bronx Regional.

David Suker was horrified at what he saw at Bronx Regional. Students who, by state law, were entitled to extra education services because they had learning or emotional disabilities were instead required to sign away their rights to those services. There was no library or independent study area for students who wanted to prepare for their GEDs. The administration had effectively segregated the school by race: students from the Dominican Republic occupied the 2nd floor and black students, both African-American and African immigrants, occupied the first floor. There was no investment by the school or district in curricular materials, which meant each teacher was on their own to teach whatever they saw fit in their subject areas. In short, these neediest of students were not provided with anything with which to make good on their last chance. It was as if the system was shutting the last door that was open to them.  This is what Cami Anderson’s reforms had wrought upon District 79. It was never easy for David Suker to remain silent before. It would be impossible for him to do so now.

So David did what he knew was right. During a panel sponsored by National Public Radio, he accused the DOE of “educational genocide”. The racial segregation he witnessed at Bronx Regional as a teacher was the flipside of the same segregation he saw in NYC as a student. The more things had changed, the more they remained the same. The only difference was that resources were dwindling and corruption was increasing in Bloomberg’s DOE. David would bring these points home to chancellor Dennis Walcott himself many times during his appearances at the Panel for Educational Policy. Appearances like these were part of what put David Suker on the DOE’s radar. The event that truly caused a blip, however, was Occupy Wall Street.

David’s trenchant stance against the DOE’s reforms was part of the dissenting spirit in the air of those days of Occupy. Towards the start of the 2011 school year, a handful of protestors started sleeping over in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. On their third evening of protest, well before what they were doing had caught on, they were joined by David Suker. Over the ensuing weeks, David became a conspicuous figure in many of Occupy’s marches. As the Occupy movement grew, so did the skittishness of the NYPD. The police’s tactic of “kettling” peaceful marchers led to a surfeit of arrests. Among those arrests was David Suker himself. Expectedly, his name and face were plastered in the local newspapers more than a few times. These articles were printed on Friday, November 4. By Monday, November 7, David returned to his school to find out the DOE was, once again, placing him in the rubber room.

They were not going to release him this time. For all of the trouble he had caused during Cami Anderson’s shakedown of District 79; for all of the times he had accused the DOE of “educational genocide”; and for all of the times his name was printed in the media, they were going to make David Suker finally pay. While he was sitting in the rubber room, the DOE thatched together a bunch of minor unrelated charges. They were hoping the aggregate of these charges would result in his termination.

The first set of charges was in step with the DOE’s tactic of piecing together disparate frivolities to make the teacher out to be a menace:

“SPECIFICATION 1 : On or about September 16, 2011 Respondent followed teacher Yanira Rodriguez into the guidance office saying, in a manner causing her to feel threatened, words to the effect of may it be the last time you talk about me behind my back.

SPECIFICATION 2: On or about October 3, 2011 , Respondent acted in a disruptive manner during a staff meeting by leaving the room twice while a colleague, Guidance Counselor Jackie Rangel, tried to address a comment Respondent

made and making comments to the effect of

a. I do not appreciate people talking about me.

b. We have to protect our jobs. There are  administrators looking to get people out.

SPECIFICATION 3: Respondent was arrested  on November 2, 2011 and failed to report the arrest in a timely manner as required by Chancellor’s Regulation C-105.”

The DOE did not stop here. Usually at 3020a hearings, the charges are broken up into individual “specifications” of varying degrees of seriousness. But in the case of David Suker, the DOE came up with separate groupings of specifications, as if his transgressions were so heinous and frequent they defied a single list. However, the likelier scenario was the DOE looked at the charges above, decided they were not enough to warrant termination and invented more. With David languishing in the rubber room, the DOE dredged up their second set of specifications:

“SPECIFICATION 1: Respondent was excessively absent in that he was absent on the following dates:

a. September 15,2011 – Thursday

b. September 21 , 2011 – Wednesday

c. September 22,2011 – Thursday

d. September 23, 2011 – Friday

e. October 5,2011 – Wednesday

f. October 17,2011 – Monday

g. October 25,2011 – Tuesday

h. October 27,2011 – Thursday

I. October 31 , 2011 – Monday

j. November 3,2011 – Thursday

k. November 4,2011 – Friday

SPECIFICATION 2: On or about October 24, 201 1 Respondent, at Town Hall meetings held in the auditorium of the Bronx Regional High  School:

a. Acted in an unprofessional and disruptive manner by causing students to make excessive noise and be uncooperative

during a presentation provided by the  New York City Police Department.

b. Questioned publicly why the police were  in the building.

c. Publicly noted his dislike of the police.

d. Said that he had been arrested and beaten by the police.

e. Showed a scar on his head that he claimed came from being beaten by police.

f. Stated words to the effect that the school practices segregation.

g. Exchanged high-fives and raised fist gestures with students.

h. Brought his students to attend two periods of the Town Hall meetings instead of just the one as directed.

SPECIFICATION 3: Respondent was arrested on November 6, 2011 and failed to report the arrest in a timely manner as required by Chancellor’s Regulation C-I 05.

SPECIFICATION 4: On or about February 13, 2009, Respondent threw Student LG’s* GED test application into the garbage can and directed her to leave the room when she refused to participate in a game of Jeopardy. (*Students’ names to be provided prior to trial.)

SPECIFICATION 5: On or about February 15, 2009, Respondent refused to allow student LG to enter his classroom requiring her to work alone.

SPECIFICATION 6: On or about the dates below, Respondent directed Student EB* to work independently and did not permit her to remain in his class:

a. February 27, 2009

b. March 3,2009”

This grouping of specifications reads like a what’s what in the defiant career of David Suker. Everything for which the DOE had already harassed him were in there, from “excessive” absences to failing to report his arrests in a “timely manner”. Even the accusation regarding the two students for which he had already been rubber roomed resurfaced, a blatant case of double jeopardy. The cherry on top, however, was his supposed “disruption” of a “town hall” meeting. The meeting was actually an assembly in which the students of Bronx Regional listened to lectures from NYPD officers on the pitfalls of violence. This violence was the result of Bronx Regional’s segregation of Dominican and black students. The DOE alleged that, during the assembly, David Suker questioned why the police were in the building. He even displayed a scar he had received as a result of a beat down from a friendly NYPD officer. He then supposedly committed the most treacherous act of which a teacher can be accused: he exchanged “high fives” with his students. It is amazing how such vile behavior went unreported by the New York Post, complete with a picture of David Suker sporting devil horns.

Yet, these evil deeds still were not enough for the DOE. With David Suker languishing in the rubber room, they continued scrambling to find things that could get him out of the door once and for all. Even with a 3020a process incredibly skewed against the teacher, there still might not have been enough at this point to terminate him. Then in January, three months and 9 specifications into David Suker’s rubber room stint, the head of the Administrative Trials Unit (the group that brings charges against teachers), Theresa Europe, sent a letter to DOE investigators. The letter revealed that David Suker had a daughter who attended an exclusive public high school in Harlem. Apparently, the address that David listed was not where his daughter really lived. This was the basis for the final set of charges:

“SPECIFICATION 1: On or about 2001 to present, Respondent submitted false documents to the Department of Education which listed addresses where neither he nor his daughter, a student attending Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering, lived.

SPECIFICATION 2: On or about December 1, 2006, Respondent submitted false documents to the Department of Education with the intent to

defraud the Department by improperly obtaining admission of his daughter into the Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering.

SPECIFICATION 3: On or about October 4, 2001, Respondent submitted false documents to the Department of Education with the intent to defraud the Department by improperly obtaining admission of his daughter to a school she was not zoned for.”

These charges were an incredible stretch. High schools are open to students of all 5 boroughs of the city. David listed his daughter’s address as in the Bronx. These facts alone should have been enough for the hearing officer to dismiss this set of charges out of hand. However, the DOE went through the trouble of sending investigators to follow David Suker’s daughter. Investigators noted that she lived with her mother in the Bronx. They even noted the exact route she took to get to the train every morning. Stalking a young girl sounds like a charge over which a teacher would terminated. Yet, DOE investigators maintain their employment with the same exact type of behavior.

After this third set of specifications was drawn up, Theresa Europe’s office expedited David Suker’s case directly to the 3020a. The hearing officer was Eleanor Glanstein. She listened to the arguments of the DOE’s lawyer, Nancy Ryan, and David’s union-appointed lawyer, Steven Friedman. It turned out to be the usual kangaroo court. Glanstein gave Nancy Ryan tremendous latitude in bringing in last-minute “evidence” and witnesses, a practice that went largely uncontested by the union lawyer. Any reporter, pundit or reformer who believes teachers are protected by an impregnable wall of tenure should sit in on a few 3020a hearings. DOE lawyers act like schoolyard bullies. Arbitrators act like indifferent monitors who permit the bullying to take place. When the hearing ended in May 2012, David Suker knew he did not have a chance to keep his career.

The school year ended soon thereafter. David started summer vacation not knowing if he was going to have a job come next school year. The ante was especially high at this point since David’s wife was pregnant. It was a real possibility that, even before his son took his first breath, David would have no way to provide for him. Then, just as the 2012 school year was set to begin, David Suker learned his fate: termination. Glanstein’s written decision went through every one of the charges. She found David Suker guilty of the vast majority of specifications. The lynchpin of her entire decision was the matter of David’s daughter’s residence.

Needless to say, he was not about to let this decision stick. Like so many other wrongfully terminated teachers from the DOE, he took his case to the New York State Supreme Court. Throughout most of its history, the New York State Supreme Court has been reluctant to overturn the decisions of labor arbitrators for fear of compromising the arbitration process. Over the past few years, however, the courts have been overturning these decisions with unprecedented frequency. Even with terminations that get overturned, it is rare for a justice of the Supreme Court to question the DOE’s investigation. They assume arbitrators are correct in what they deem to be the facts of the case. They also assume that the teacher is guilty. At most, all a teacher can hope for is a ruling that the arbitrator’s penalty is “shocking to the conscience”. Fortunately for David, his case would be heard by a justice who saw through the entire witch hunt that comprised his termination.

Justice Alice Schlesinger’s decision is a devastating takedown of Glanstein’s termination, her guilty verdicts and the entire DOE investigation. The start of Schlesinger’s ruling (towards the bottom of page 11) suggests the not-so-impartial nature of David’s supposedly impartial DOE hearing:

“The ALJ recommended the penalty of termination. In doing so, she first summarized the number of charges for which she had found Suker guilty. She noted that they involved excessive absenteeism, unprofessional conduct toward a colleague, inappropriate and disruptive behavior at a school assembly, failing to follow correct procedures in dealing with two students in 2009, and failing to report one arrest in a timely manner. A necessary query here is whether the ALJ would have recommended termination if these were all the findings, in other words, findings related only to an assortment of unrelated conduct involving a politically charged assembly, an incident of rudeness to another teacher, taking too many days off without obtaining formal permission, failing by a few days in not reporting his arrest at a demonstration, and failing to follow correct procedures regarding two disruptive students almost three years before the Charges had been brought and which had earlier been investigated. I suggest the answer would have been no and that a lesser penalty would have been imposed, particularly since none of the above findings had anything to do with the quality of Suker’s teaching. If the penalty had been termination simply on these findings, it truly would have shocked the judicial conscience as being harsh. Even the very zealous attorney representing the DOE in her closing statement acknowledged this fact…”

In other words, the first two groups of specifications alone were not enough to terminate David Suker. They were a string of petty, unrelated charges that would have truly “shocked the conscience” if used as the sole grounds for his termination. The charges involving the disruptive students back from 2009, aside from being an example of double jeopardy, alleged that David merely did not follow the school’s ladder of referral for dealing with such students, hardly an offense for which a teacher should have their license revoked. This is a fact the DOE themselves realized when they released him from his first rubber room stint without penalty.

Instead, the arbitrator based her termination on the supposedly fraudulent address David Suker listed for his daughter. Schlesinger noted that the DOE lawyer’s plea for termination based upon this one charge took up seven pages of the hearing’s transcript. The lawyer characterized Suker’s conduct in this regard as “criminal”. Schlesinger, on the other hand, characterized these charges, and the termination upon which they were based, as a violation of his tenure rights.

The fact is that David did put down an address at which his daughter did not live on her application for elementary school. This was in 2001. The fact is that David did put down a false address for his daughter on her application to middle school. This was in 2006. He did this for various reasons, not the least of which was he did not have a stable residence. For David, it was a matter of picking an address and going with it. However, all of this should have been irrelevant to the DOE. Even if David had put down these addresses to intentionally deceive, he still should not have been charged for them. He could not be charged for them because the tenure law for NYC teachers states that the DOE cannot bring charges for anything more than three years old. The last time David provided an address at which his daughter did not live was 2006. These charges were drawn up in 2012.

At this point, David’s daughter was already enrolled in high school. Where David Suker or his daughter were living at that point were irrelevant since NYC high schools are open to students in all five boroughs. If this is the case, why in the world did DOE investigators stalk his daughter in the Bronx? Her place of residence did not matter at the time of the investigation. Perhaps these investigators should be brought up on charges of their own and required to be part of some sort of registry so their neighbors can know what types of creeps are living amongst them.

Justice Schlesinger summed up her decision with what she perceived were the real reasons for David Suker’s termination:

“As this Court stated earlier, the school’s leadership did not want petitioner Suker to remain there as a teacher. They did not like him or approve of his actions. They believed he was insubordinate, that he did not conduct himself properly, that he was getting arrested too often, and probably that he was not a team player. It is possible that much of that is true. But with the exception of the two episodes involving disruptive students, which had occurred almost three years earlier in 2009 and had not resulted in discipline, no one has claimed that David Suker is not a good and/or effective teacher.

Finally, it should be noted that the conduct spelled out in Charge 3, regarding a false address for his daughter, never involved Suker’s own school and never would have been discovered but for the DOE’S decision to target Suker to see if an investigation could find something to be used against him, which it did. But that “something” should not be a basis for terminating this tenured teacher, for the reasons already discussed.”

These words, and the entire David Suker story, encapsulates perfectly the reasons why all teachers everywhere need solid work protections. David stuck up for his students his entire career, even if it meant drawing the ire of his supervisors. He is the type of person determined to do the just thing, even if that thing is unpopular or dangerous to his livelihood. When his students were being beaten by corrections officers, he spoke out about it and was duly punished. Instead of being cowed by this experience with bureaucratic backlash, he continued to be an advocate. He was an advocate for kids who had no other advocate. When the reformer Cami Anderson came to town to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic that was District 79, she caused untold damage to the lives of the kids and their teachers. David Suker was not silent about these acts of education reformer criminality. For this, he paid with his career.

Education reformers are fond of saying how much they love poor children and how they want to help them. By the time David Suker was terminated, the DOE was thoroughly in the grasp of the reformers. Even though Anderson was off destroying the schools of Newark by 2012, Bloomberg acolytes still occupied every position of consequence within the system. They accomplished a feat by sucking resources away from the most underserved kids in the city. David Suker was systematically harassed when he protested against this. So while David is a textbook argument in favor of teacher tenure, he is also a textbook example of why reformers nationwide have made teacher tenure their biggest target. The reformers know what they are doing to our schools is an exercise in unmitigated brutality. Because of that, they need to shut teachers up so they can go about destroying the communities of poor people unabated.

We need to thank teachers like David Suker who refuse to lay down so the jackboots of school reform can trample over them. We need to thank them for using their own resources to lawyer up in order get their terminations overturned in an actual court of law, where a measure of justice can be served. We need to support them in their ongoing struggle against the witch hunts conducted by the Department of Education.

In the thick of last year’s holiday season, the DOE moved to discontinue the unemployment they were giving David Suker. They also sued him for the unemployment they had already given him. His son was born at that point. If not for the paychecks brought home by his hard-working wife, there is no telling what type of childhood their son would be having now. This is reminiscent of the Christine Rubino case, where she had to sell the house in which she was raising her two young children thanks to a wrongful termination by the DOE. They also tried discontinuing her unemployment. This is another reason why the DOE motto of “children first, always” is a cruel example of reformer doublespeak.

The battle is not over. The DOE is appealing Schlesinger’s decision. Let us hope it turns out like the DOE’s appeal of the Christine Rubino decision, where 5 justices saw through the charade of a sham DOE investigation and termination. Stay tuned…






8 responses to “A Case for Teacher Tenure: The David Suker Story

  1. David should be commended for his ability to look adversity in the face, standing up for his students, and not backing down from a battle with Goliath. I applaud him for this, and you for writing these wonderful “stories” that show us “bad seeds” in a different light. Very hard to paint a portrait of a person whose life has been destroyed by yellow journalism.

  2. Wow. Thank you for writing this and giving real face to something the media has portrayed in a horrible manner. It is hard to stand up against the odds when the majority and mainstream media are pinning against you. I hope all goes well for David. His persistence and courage should be praised and not attacked against.

  3. You should be commended for once again doing the work that neither the media nor the union choose to do. The fact that his story is tragic despite the fact that David is protected by the much maligned tenure proves that it is not as secure as it’s detractors claim. Tenure alone cannot protect David or anyone else. A strong effective union can, but we don’t have one. A responsible media can, but we don’t have that either. Luckily we have justices like Alice Schlesinger, truth tellers like Assailed and bowed but unbroken targets like David to stand firm against this madness.

  4. For me personally, reading this blow by blow account of the living Hell that was visited upon David Suker brought back all the painful memories of my own journey through the Belly of the Beast that is the New York City Dept. of Education.

    As vivid as the story appears to the reader, only those, like David and myself as well as Francesco Portelos, who have actually been through such a Hell can fully know what it feels like to be hounded, set up, brutalized and victimized by the clinically psychotic, failed human beings who control the NYC public schools system.

    These people are beyond simply sick, twisted, amoral individuals.
    They represent Evil incarnate. There is literally no depth to which these sick, degenerates will not sink to in order to destroy any teacher they perceive to be a threat to the status quo.

    To the extent that these corrupt, vicious, social deviants have not the slightest real interest in the welfare of New York City’s one million, mostly “at risk”, inner city, defenseless children, these DOE hacks, who try to destroy such human beings as David Suker, Francesco Portelos as well as so many hundreds of other innocent teachers I have known, makes these DOE pencil pushers virtually deserving of quite long prison sentences in one of the jail system’s tougher prisons where they can receive their “just deserts”.

    Only those teachers who have been personally victimized by the human slugs that control the NYC schools can fully understand just how psychotic, and how truly sadistic these people are and to what illegal lengths they will go to in order to keep their grip on power and position.

    There is virtually no form of retaliation they will not utilize to drive an innocent teacher out of the system and destroy his or her life.

    Like David Suker, Francesco Portelos and so many others I was determined not to go silently into that dark night without a fight. Criminally Railroaded out of my salary by the DOE Medical quacks, (who I brought down in the end), forced to endure two State 30-20a Kangaroo Trials in which I triumphed in the end, I know only too well the unspeakable pain and Hell that the NYC DOE has visited on David Suker and other innocent educators who refused to avert their eyes from corruption and criminal behavior.

    I salute all those brave teachers who have stood up against incredible odds to defend the Constitutional Rights to a decent quality education and future supposedly guaranteed to every child in this nation, rich or poor, regardless of skin color and/or ethnic origin.

    People like David Suker, Francesco Portelos and all the other well known victims of the NYC DOE represent true Heroes and true Role Models for countless “at risk” students.

    My own story is well known and well documented. Even the prestigious London Newspaper, the FINANCIAL TIMES saw fit to publish in all its International Editions, worldwide, the story of how I had been victimized by the New York City Dept. of Education, much to the displeasure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his hack, lapdog, former Chancellor Joel Klein, Esq.

    In the end the types of people who have made David Suker’s life a living Hell will all one day be consigned to the scrap heap of history, discarded and forgotten, and definitely little mourned whilst David Suker who has had such a positive effect on rescuing so many “at risk” children from oblivion and lives mired in poverty and suffering will be long remembered by all those who were fortunate enough to know this highly ethical, brave and generous educator and human being.

    Blessings on you David Suker for putting your own career and well being at risk in order to fight the Good Fight.

    We, as well as your countless students, who know your story will Honor you to the end of our days.

  5. thank you so much for writing this. i don’t think people realize the absolute power (the corrupts absolutely) county school boards and the system administration (from superintendent down the chain) have.

    i work in the public schools and sadly, david’s’ story is par for the course when you “rock-the-boat” or don’t promote the “party line” (common core, pay for performance, high-stakes testing, etc). in fact, while this story really got to me (thank you for writing so very eloquently about it), i know people in my district and others who have been through similar things and once you are on their “hit list,” you basically are done unless you hire your own lawyer (we have PAGE here-it’s georgia. a right-to-work state, and no actual unions are allowed-and part of their salary is paid by the local school boards… conflict of interest, don’t you think??? how objective can they be?).

    at any rate, there have been things like forgery of signatures, documentation of meetings that were never held (one that i am thinking of was a disciplinary “letter of concern” meeting-if you have three of those in one year, you are fired with no chance of appeal-held with this person but the person in question was on summer holiday and in another country when she was “at” the meeting and signed the documentation that she had been given the letter, so there was proof she wasn’t there but it was still used to as part of their case against her (?!?!).

    like david, there was documentation of things going back 10-12 years that either never happened or did but not enough to get that “letter of concern.” late to a meeting 8 years prior because of a blown tire-and she had documentation that the principal had okayed it but, funnily enough, THAT was not in there, of course.

    policy is they can only look at the present year’s performance. the rationale being, if there have been on-going issues, the person should not have been offered a contract because of these “egregious” offenses. once they are issued a contract, you can only look at that school years’ performance.

    in one case (that was thrown out after the person spent money and time hiring a lawyer for the “tribunal.” she was also told she would be arrested if she entered any county property as she was a “danger to staff and children and her values were morally corrupt” (more on those “immoral values” below).

    if you appeal (and you are definitely ‘bullied’ by hr to resign), it goes to a “tribunal” comprised of ex-employees of the county (now, that’s not biased at all…right?). if that doesn’t work, you can appeal to the state school board, but neither the lawyer or employee can be there, it is written as a brief only. if not successful there, you can go to the state school board for appeal. not only can this cost a great deal of money on the employee’s part (once the tribunal determines guilt, the employee is fired but can appeal, it is highly stressful.

    the whole process is biased from the beginning in the making up of the “objective” tribunal. in one case, the one where they documented, like david, every minor thing this person did dating back 12 years, the incident that started the witch hunt that she was being fired for was because she reported severe physical abuse to (must do that legally as a mandated reporter) and the parent happened to be a friend of the head of human resources.

    they tried to fire her on the basis of “immorality” (you will see why below) and other “good and sufficient cause, ” basically a catch-all phrase. this person was reported to hr by the parent that the employee was ‘promoting’ the child’s choice to be gay and, thus, promoting homosexuality. the person was contacted by the student because she was in the process of coming out and the employee told her that it was not something her parents ‘believed’ in (they had previously taken her to church to “get the devil cast out”) and as long as she lived under her parents roof, she needed to follow their rules. she did tell the student she supported her no matter what she decided to do/be.

    hr said the employee was “promoting homossexuality” and was going to be charged with “promoting possible pedophellia” as “homos are pedophiles” and they could call the feds on her, but were going to be “nice” and just remove her from her job. yup, totally true. i got to hear the tapes. the employee secretly taped all the conversations with hr, so that can all be verified. in ga. the law is that only ONE person has to know they are taping (i.e. the employee) and it is admissible.

    she was there one day, someone came and demanded she hand over her laptop (they couldn’t find anything) and told to leave the school and she had to meet with the head of hr the next morning. he was abusive, rude, and demoralizing (she had it on tape) and threatened her with those “federal charges.”

    very, very long story somewhat shorter, they had to throw out all parts of their case that were not from that school year, their lawyer contacted her lawyer stating that she had asked her client (head of hr) to throw out the case and he refused and she had no idea why as she had explained she did not really have a “case.” so, she had no case but had to try the case knowing there was no way she could spin it to win. the opposing lawyer got most thrown out during opening arguments, but the client decided to hold on to the “immorality” and “good and sufficient” charges. so, guess what? the employee (who had been paid for the THREE months it took the county to “investigate”) won the case and was never fired. she missed over three months of work and was not awarded lawyer fees because it wasn’t a “real” court but an inside tribunal.

    and guess what? the child in question is now in college and STILL GAY. surprise. she begged her parents not to do this but they were so convinced it was this evil teacher “promoting the gay agenda” and their child was being influenced and not ‘really’ gay (also, as a matter of fact, this teacher is married and straight, so likely no “gay agenda” in her part, just supportive of all her students). it was really the parents who lost as their child no longer has contact with them and blames them for what they did to her teacher and only source of support. and, as i stated, STILL GAY.

    and this isn’t even the worst story, but the one that bothers me because, as a school psychologist because i see kids being thrown out of their homes, beaten, attempting suicide, etc. all because they are not supported and feel alone as GLBTQI kids or have been ridiculed and bullied if they have the bravery to come out. not to mention, in this particular county, they voted NOT to include gender identity or sexuality in their employee non-discrimination policies (even though it is included in the federal law), so a gay employee could be fired for being gay.

    but, that’s a whole other story…

  6. Dearest Lederr:

    Many thanks for reading my thoughts regarding what the NYC Dept. of Education did to David Suker.

    Very few targeted NYC teachers survive. Even if they manage to retain their job, their life and career are effectively never the same. In almost every way their passion and desire to continue to work in a system that tried to destroy them as a human being is forever afterwards totally ruined.

    Like Humpty Dumpty falling off “the wall” a NYC teacher or any teacher anywhere, for that matter, who has gone up against “the system”, and been retaliated against with a vengeance, is never the same person after that Life altering experience.

    Even as I spent almost seven years battling the sadistic failed human beings who had sought to destroy my highly Decorated and storied career, I knew that once I was vindicated in a State Trial, of all the hideously obscene and knowingly contrived false allegations that had been made against me, I would tender my permanent resignation and move on with my life.

    And I did.

    I need not bring coals to New Castle here. It is clear from the long detailed comment you sent me that you have seen it all just as I have. When one observes the types of human beings who have totally hijacked the entire multi billion dollar world of Education in America it is enough to make one throw up his/her arms to Heaven and scream at the top of one’s lungs:

    “If there is a God somewhere up above, where is he/she now as the lives of millions of innocent children are being routinely destroyed on a daily basis.

    But let me stop with that statement lest I go on forever with all the nightmares I have witnessed first hand that have all but broken my heart as I have seen countless innocent children robbed of their Constitutional Rights and a chance at a decent future.

    Let me say “Wow, and wow and wow” about how absolutely special you and Mr.A-Z are.

    Both your own thoughts and outlook and those of Mr.A-Z are truly “something else”.

    It is like a blast of fresh air to learn there are still really sane, sensitive and brilliant human beings out there who make up for all the horrendous things we see happening to so many innocent and defenseless Souls all around us.

    May the Gods Bless you both for being who and what you are and the way in which your loving Karma radiates outward, like ripples on a still pond at the break of a new day, so pregnant with new limitless possibilities to make the world a better place in spite of all the Evil Doers.

    Please do tell Mr.A-Z how deeply his words affected me straight to the core of my heart- and your words, thoughts and positive ideas as well.

    Perhaps we will all meet one day somewhere, somehow before the end of all our Journeys.

    This is who I am: http://www.OldMasterPortraits.com

    What a joy to reflect that there are such people as you in this world. It all reminds me of one of my favorite books in the entire world, THE LITTLE PRINCE by the immortal Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

    Safe Journeys always kind hearted Lady.

    I wish you the Best of the Best that Life can offer.

    David Pakter

  7. Pingback: What the New UFT Contract SHOULD Look Like | Assailed Teacher

  8. Mr. Suker sounds to me to be a talented teacher with serious problems. One of those problems is not being a responsible adult and leading children towards meaningful and understanding relationships. Suker was arrested, obvious justified arrests and uses his arrest to spread hate and discontent in the the teaching environment. Mr. Super, do us all a favor and stay out of the class room. Maybe use that $94,000 salary and protest some more about pay inequality on Wall Street. Maybe someday you will realize you are part of the problem, not solution and act like you should of by the wearing of that uniform you wore not too long ago, which was an honor.

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