of School Commissioners of Baltimore City and Barbara Brock
Statement of the Case
is an Appeal filed by Barbara Brock ("Ms. Brock"), a teacher at
Coldstream Park Elementary School ("Coldstream") in the Baltimore
City Public School System ("BCPSS"), from a recommendation of the
Chief Executive Officer ("CEO") of the New Board of School
Commissioners of Baltimore City ("the Board") made to the Board
pursuant to Md. Code Education Article § 6- 202
for Ms. Brock's "timely and immediate dismissal . . .
for two consecutive years of unsatisfactory evaluations
. . . "
By letter dated January 24, 2006, the Board's Acting Executive, Dawana M. Sterrette, served Ms. Brock's counsel, Jeffery Ross, Esq. and BCPSS's Legal Counsel, Allyson Huey, Esq. with official notification that a hearing would be conducted on Ms. Brock's Appeal on February 8, 2006, by the undersigned Hearing Officer for the Board. However, due to the unexpected unavailability of a witness for BCPSS, the hearing was postponed at Ms. Huey's request and rescheduled for March 3, 2006.
Undersigned convened a private hearing beginning at 11:00
a.m. on March 3, 2006,
and continued and concluded the hearing on March 15, 2006 at 200 E. North
Avenue, Baltimore, Md. 21202. Ms.
Huey appeared as counsel for the CEO, Mr. Ross appeared as counsel for Ms.
Brock. The hearing was conducted pursuant to Section 407 of the Board's
Personnel Policies. During the
course of the hearing all parties were given the right to be represented by
counsel, to present opening statements, to present oral testimony of
witnesses, to cross examine opposing witnesses, to present documents as
evidence and to present closing statements. A motion for sequestration of
witnesses, made by counsel for Ms. Brock, was granted.
All witnesses testified under oath, and pursuant to Section 407.03D
of the Board's Personnel Policies, a stenographic record of the hearing was
made. Following the conclusion
of the presentation of evidence, counsel for the parties made oral closing
carefully considered the testimony of the witnesses,
the exhibits and closing arguments of the parties, and for the
reasons explained below, the
Hearing Officer recommends that the Board deny the Appeal filed by Ms. Brock
and sustain the CEO's recommendation for Ms. Brock's dismissal.
the evidence and information submitted to the Hearing Office by BCPSS was
sufficient to establish that the CEO had grounds for recommending that Ms.
Brock be dismissed pursuant to Md. Code Education Article § 6- 202.
PERTINENT PROVISIONS OF MARYLAND LAW AND BCPSS POLICY
Code Education Article § 6- 202 "Suspension
or dismissal of teachers, principals and other professional personnel"
states that "on the recommendation of the county superintendent (the
CEO in Baltimore City) a county board (in Baltimore City, the Board) may . . . dismiss a teacher
. . . for Immorality, Misconduct in office, Insubordination,
Incompetency or Willful neglect of duty."
The Board's Performance-Based Evaluation System
October 2003, BCPSS adopted a "Performance Based Evaluation
System" ("PBES") as a "vital part of the commitment to improving
education for all Baltimore City Public School students." (Jt. Exhibit 2).
A fundamental premise of the PBES is that "effective performance
of all teacher level staff members is the foundation for achieving the goal
of increased student achievement," and that "Allowing incompetent
teachers to remain in the school system continues to victimize the
students." Accordingly, the PBES "hold(s) all teacher level staff
members accountable for increased student achievement."
PBES requires assessing staff in four domains: Planning and Preparation,
Learning Environment, Instruction/Instructional Support, and Professional
Responsibilities. Each domain
is 25% of the evaluation and for each domain staff members are rated:
"Proficient" (86-100 rating points),
"Satisfactory"(70-85 rating points) or "Unsatisfactory"
(0 -69 rating points). Ratings
are performed by the school principal or other qualified observers, as
defined in the PBES. An overall rating of unsatisfactory may be appealed by
the teacher in accordance with Md. Code Education Article § 4-205(c)(4).
If an observation report is a component of an unsatisfactory
evaluation, the observation report may be appealed along with the
unsatisfactory report. COMAR
13A.07.04.04, "Appeal of an Evaluation."
evaluation system provides step-by-step procedures to rate teachers.
These procedures include
An Initial Planning Conference is held with teachers at the beginning
of each school year to discuss their students' strengths and weaknesses and
the teachers' plans and strategies to address student achievement.
A Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP") is developed for any
teacher who has been rated "unsatisfactory" in any one of the four
Domains or who had an overall unsatisfactory the previous academic year, in
which the teacher agrees to take steps to improve with resources and support
to help him/her improve. 
3. "Observations" are conducted by "qualified" observers in a cycle that includes a "pre-observation conference" prior to each "formal observation" and a "post-observation conference." 
A "Performance Review Report and Conference" is conducted
to assess and critically appraise teacher performance by January 15 of each
An Annual Evaluation is performed to assess teachers' overall
An Annual Evaluation
Report and Conference are conducted one week before the last work day in
PBES "is based upon the proposition that consideration of student
outcomes must be a meaningful part of the evaluation process," and
places the burden on staff to identify incompetent teachers. The evaluation
system also recognizes that "continued teacher development is important
and all teachers must be provided effective means to improve their
Arguments of The
support of the CEO's recommendation for Ms. Brock's dismissal for
incompetence, BCPSS cites:
Formal observations of Ms. Brock's classroom for each of the last two
school years revealed areas for improvement in one or more domains.
Based on an unsatisfactory evaluation for the 2003-04 school year Ms.
Brock was placed on second class certificate for the 2004-05 school year.
Support was provided by staff in both years designed to improve
performance in each of the domains in which Ms. Brock was found to be in
need of improvement including classroom management and effective
Despite efforts to assist Brock to improve her performance, Ms. Brock
was evaluated "unsatisfactory" for the 2004-05 school year and was
recommended for dismissal.
Despite two formal observations showing areas for improvement in
school years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005; having her teaching certificate 2nd
class for the 2004-2005 school year and receiving unsatisfactory evaluations
in the last two school years, Brock never exercised her right to appeal any
of these negative reports.
Her evaluations did not take into account that she did not begin
teaching at Coldstream until several weeks into the 2003-04 school year
which impacted on her ability to affect student behavior and their ability
There were procedural flaws in the process leading to the
recommendation for dismissal.
She was not provided the necessary resources to improve her
performance as contemplated by the PBES.
Finding of Fact
forth in this Section is a summary of the testimony and documentary evidence
submitted by witnesses called by the CEO and Ms. Brock. Other facts and
evidence may be noted in the Conclusion of Law section below to the extent
knowledge of either is necessary to understand the Hearing Officer's
CEO's Position in Support of her Recommendation
CEO's support for meeting her burden of proof that Ms. Brock was
"Incompetent" is verified by the following chronology and the
testimony of witnesses describing and commenting on each event and document:
1. September 24, 2003, Ms. Brock, who has been a BCPSS teacher for more than 30 years, was assigned to Coldstream as a special education teacher. (CEO Exhibit No. 4).
December 1, 2003 - A Formal Observation Report summarizing the
observation of a lesson by Tracey N. Thomas, Coldstream's Assistant
Principal, showed all four PBES Domains as "Areas
for Improvement." (CEO
Exhibit No. 1). Ms.
Thomas testified that during her observation, students yelled, ran around
the room, Ms. Brock did not follow the "Open Court Curriculum,"
she was flustered and cried. In
a written comment on the Report, Ms. Brock stated that she had prepared for
the lesson but that the students did not respect her directions.
She stated that she needed "more direction with Open Court
Format and pacing with Sp. Ed. students."
However, she did not appeal the Observation Report. 
January 15, 2004 - A Performance Review Report by Ms. Brock's
Principal, Elizabeth Williams, graded
Ms. Brock "Unsatisfactory"
in two domains - Teacher Planning and Preparation and
Instruction/Instructional Support. Ms.
Williams testified that Ms. Brock was not addressing the students' needs
listed on their individual education plans. ("IEP's") She
explained that the delivery of instructional program by Ms. Brock was
deficient; the learning goals were not addresses. (Tr. 116-117) The Report
recommended that Ms. Brock be placed on a Performance Improvement Plan
("PIP") (CEO Exhibit No. 5).
January 22, 2004 - Ms. Brock was placed on a PIP by
Principal Williams targeting "Area(s) of Improvement" in
Domains I and III and setting forth an "Action Plan" with target
dates and dates on which to review progress on the targets and enumerating
the assistance Ms. Brock would need from her Principal to help correct her
problems. (CEO Exhibit No. 7)
January 23, 2004 - A
memorandum was given to Ms. Brock by Principal Williams
enclosing material designed to provide techniques for meeting the
diverse needs and styles of learners and asking Ms. Brock to review the
material in preparation to meeting with her to discuss suggestions for
improvement. (CEO Exhibit No.
6 . March 10, 2004 - A formal observation was conducted by Annie McIntosh, an educational specialist and qualified observer. The Formal Observation Report listed five "Area(s) of Improvement" and stated that "Classroom management and instruction are of grave concern. In a matter of fifteen minutes . . . the teacher had to interrupt instruction on eleven different occasions to address inappropriate student behavior." Ms. Brock signed the FOR without comment and did not file an appeal. (CEO Exhibit No. 9)
March 18, 2004 - A
Formal Observation Report by Principal Williams was presented to Ms. Brock.
"Area(s) of Improvement"
included Domains I, II and III. Specifically, the Report noted that
the classroom activities failed to reflect the objective of the lesson, that
the classroom environment conveyed "inconsistent expectations,"
that several students were not engaged in learning, and that instruction did
not address the IEP goals for the students.
Ms. Williams testified that "the lesson just seemed to have been
so very disjointed." (Tr. 129) Ms.
Brock signed this Report and explained that she is bipolar but would confer
with her psychologist to determine whether adjustment of her mediation was
Exhibit No. 8) She did not file
March 26, 2004 - In her PIP Appraisal, based upon formal and informal
observations, Ms. Williams determined that Ms. Brock must continue to work
on employing instructional strategies that have positive impact on student
learning and continued Ms. Brock on her PIP. (CEO Exhibit No. 7)
April 1, 2004 - Ms. Williams gave Ms. Brock an overall rating of
"Unsatisfactory" - 48 total points out of a possible 100 on her
Annual Evaluation Report. The
Report noted that her students were not engaged mentally, that no standards
of conduct appeared to have been established, that many time she was unaware
of what students were doing, and that she had "allowed an atmosphere to
exist that is a detriment to the learning process."
Ms. Williams testified that "too often there were assignments
and activities that were just inappropriate for the students" that
"did not address their IEP's . . . " The Principal recommended
that Ms. Brock's teaching certificate be reclassified as 2nd
Class for school year 2004-2005.
(CEO Exhibit No. 10) Ms.
Brock signed this Report but did not file an appeal.
April 13, 2004 - Ms.
Brock was placed on a PIP targeting Domains II and III as "Area(s) of
Improvement" and setting forth an "Action Plan" with target
dates and dates on which to review progress on the targets
(CEO Exhibit No. 13)
By letter dated April 13, 2004, Ms. Williams advised Ms. Brock that
arrangements had been made for her to observe the classroom of two of her
colleagues at Coldstream who had "good classroom management skills as
well as instructional techniques" - Ms. Marian Johnson and Ms. Althea
Turner, and stated that she was "ready to assist (her) in making this
year a successful teaching experience."
(CEO Exhibit No. 12)
12. By memo dated April 13, 2004, from Ms. Brock to Ms. Williams, Ms. Brock listed the techniques that she used within her self-contained classroom during the 2003-2004 school year. (CEO Exhibit 14)
By letter May 3, 2004, the CEO informed Ms. Brock that "based
upon her observed and teaching efficiency" her teacher's certificate
had been classified as "second class" pursuant to Md. Code
Education Article § 6- 102 (c) and cautioned that failure to demonstrate
sufficient improvement might result in her termination from BCPSS.
The letter advised Ms. Brock that she might have "certain
grievance and/or appeal rights" under State law, School Board policies,
the Code of Maryland Regulations ("COMAR") and the negotiated
labor agreement between the Board and BTU. (CEO Exhibit No. 11)
Ms. Brock did not file an appeal.
September 7, 2004 - Ms. Brock was placed on a written Individual
Development Plan ("IDP") by
Principal Williams setting forth a set of goals including becoming computer
literate, integrating technology across the curriculum, and gaining
professional knowledge regarding effective strategies and techniques for
mathematics instruction. (CEO
Exhibit No. 15)
September 29, 2004 - Ms.
Brock was given a Memorandum from Assistant Principal Tracey Thomas noting
Ms. Brock's inappropriate behavior in her classroom and offering support
from her colleagues and the administration if "at any time" she
was "experiencing problems with a student or students in (her)
classroom and feel that (she needed) assistance."
Ms. Brock signed the Memorandum and explained that she has a bipolar
disorder and that she was "very sorry for (her) behavior." (CEO
Exhibit No. 2)
October 7, 2004 - Ms. Brock signed an Initial Planning Conference
Form confirming that an initial planning conference had been conducted with
Ms. Williams during which students' strengths and weaknesses, plans and
strategies to increase student achievement were discussed, data sources to
measure achievement were identified and her PIP and IDP were reviewed. (CEO
Exhibit No. 16)
October 7, 2004 - Ms. Brock received a
Pre-Observation Form from Annie McIntosh, an Inclusion Specialist in
the BCPSS, enumerating the focus areas for Ms. Brock's formal observation. (CEO Exhibit No. 20)
18. October 7, 2004 - Ms. Brock was placed on a PIP by Principal Williams targeting Domains II and III as "Area(s) of Improvement" and setting forth an "Action Plan" with target dates and dates on which to review progress on the targets. (CEO Exhibit No. 17)
October 21, 2004 - A Formal Observation Report by Ms. McIntosh was
presented to Ms. Brock. It
listed Ms. Brock's need to review
charts that she makes before posting them in the classroom for
"accuracy of information, grammar and spelling" to "reflect
knowledge of the Open Court series, logical organization of tasks and
appropriate pacing of planned activities" in her planning, to
use "effective and consistent implementation of behavior
management procedures," to utilize a variety of techniques and
strategies to meet the needs of students, to insure that instructional goals
and activities are appropriate for students, and to minimize student
misbehavers to increase student learning time" as Area(s) of
Improvement. Ms. Brock signed
this Report. Her written comments acknowledged that she had made mistakes on
the charts she had posted. With
respect to classroom management she stated that "no matter how much
(she) planned, (she) could not get it right," and that she would
"continue to work at learning Open Court the way you showed (me) to
implement the plan." Despite
the negative Report, she did not file an appeal. (CEO Exhibit No.19)
November 4, 2004 - A School/Area Consultation/Technical Assistance
Form described a formal observation conducted by Linda C. Brown, Office of
Curriculum and Instruction, as a follow-up to Ms. McIntosh's formal
observation on September 30, 2004. Ms. Brown described Ms. Brock's class as
"very chaotic and students were clearly
not engaged in the learning process." The Report cautioned that
"unless the teacher can gain classroom control students will not fully
benefit from special education services listed on their IEP's," that
she must "be able to provide them with an orderly environment."
Reporting on a follow-up visit conducted on November 23, 2005, Ms.
Brown reported that Ms. Brock "was not able to provide adequate
documentation of students' functioning level."
(CEO Exhibit No. 21)
A School/Area Consultation/Technical Assistance Form described
deficiencies in Ms, Brock's "classroom set-up." As of November 11,
2004. (CEO Exhibit No. 22)
22. November 24, 2004 - Principal Williams provided Ms. Brock with a Formal Observation Report of her observation of Ms. Brock's class that day. The Report described the areas of strength in Domain I (Planning and Preparation) and IV (Professional Responsibility). In the latter, Ms. Williams noted that Ms. Brock "participates in professional development (Mt. Royal Math Workshops) to enhance knowledge and skill." However, all four Domains were noted as "Areas(s) of Improvement, including "addressing IEP skills or helping students understand the lesson," and that "she contributes to some students being ill served by the school." (CEO Exhibit No. 23) Ms. Brock did not file an appeal.
November 24, 2004 - Ms. Brock was placed on a PIP by Principal
Williams targeting Domains II and III as "Area(s) of Improvement"
and setting forth an "Action Plan" with target dates and dates on
which to review progress on the targets.
A PIP Appraisal as of November 24, 2004 stated that "Although
assistance has been provided, lessons don't always address IEP's of each
student nor has Ms. Brock been able to establish an environment that is
orderly and productive. Administrators
and support staff will continue to provide assistance."
Further PIP Appraisals were scheduled for January 14, 2005 and March
24, 2005. (CEO Exhibit No. 24)
Following parent and student reports,
Ms. Brock confirmed that she had "dozed off" during class.
Based on this information, Ms. Williams referred Ms. Brock for a
"fitness for duty evaluation."
An evaluation found that she was "able to perform the essential
functions of (her) assigned position," and by letter dated November 24,
2004, she was notified that she
was to return to work on December 1, 2004. (CEO Exhibit No. 18)
January 14. 2005 - Ms. Brock was given a Performance Review Report
that she was unsatisfactory in the Domain of Instruction/Instructional
Support that "Representation of content is inconsistent in quality.
Improvement is needed with instructional techniques and modifications to
meet IEP need of your two students."
(CEO Exhibit No. 25)
March 24, 2005 - A PIP Appraisal noted that Ms. Brock was progressing
in the goals that were set. (See CEO Exhibit No. 24)
However, her Formal Observation Report graded all four Domains as
Areas for Improvement. The qualified observer commented that her delivery of
instruction did not achieve the lesson plan's objective. The Report reiterated that her teaching deficits contribute to
"some students being ill served by the school." (CEO Exhibit No.
March 24, 2005 - Ms. Brock's Annual Evaluation Report assessed her
unsatisfactory for the Domains of the Learning Environment and
Instruction/Instructional Support with a total point score of 55. The
Principal commented that although Ms. Brock had only two and /or three
students assigned to her that year, she had difficulty implementing her
instructional program and maintaining an effective classroom environment.
(CEO Exhibit No. 27) Ms. Brock
signed the Report but did not file an Appeal.
June 16, 2005 - Statement of Charges was filed by the CEO
recommending to the Board that Ms. Brock should be dismissed
for having two consecutive years of unsatisfactory evaluations.
Specifically the recommendation noted during the 2003-2004 school year she
received an unsatisfactory evaluation and was placed on 2nd class
certificate; and that during
the 2004-2005 she was placed on a PIP and received her second unsatisfactory
evacuation despite support and assistance from colleagues, an Instructional
Support Teacher and administrators, and that despite having only two to
three students assigned to her, she had shown little improvement in her
instructional program and in the maintenance of an effective classroom
environment. (CEO Exhibit No. 28)
Her evaluations did not take into account that she did not start at
Coldstream until September 24, 2004.
taking over a new class several weeks into a school year might place
additional challenges on a teacher particularly after the class had been
taught by two teachers previous to her, it would be a stretch to attribute
two full academic years of continuing unsatisfactory performances to a late
start at the beginning of the first year.
Perhaps more weight could be given to these circumstances to excuse
poor performance of a first year teacher, but Ms. Brock has been a BCPSS
teacher for more than 30 years. Therefore, even though there may have been a break down by
the school system in the teaching assignment at Coldstream, Ms. Brock, an
experienced teacher, should have been able to compensate for the late start
with a new class. Indeed, her
inability to make adjustments to deal with her late start over the next two
years, would indicate an even more serious deficit that would support
the CEO's claim of incompetence.
There were procedural flaws in the process leading to the
recommendation for dismissal.
flaws in the evaluation system according to Ms. Brock, are shown by the
absence of the following documentation from her personnel file: (1) the
initial planning conference form for March 2004, (2) the individual
development form for 2003-2004. (3) the pre-observation conference form for
the formal observation of December 1, 2003; (4) the pre-observation
conference form for the March 2004 formal observation, (5) the
pre-observation conference form for the March 2005 formal observation, all
of which are part of the PBES. She
contends that an annual evaluation "lacking these forms is a deficient
evaluation process." (Tr. 520)
testimony of the school administrators revealed, however, that the
conferences did occur and the forms were prepared but could not be located
at the time of the hearing. While the absence of these forms from Ms. Brock's personnel
file, may display questionable record keeping in a matter of importance to
the teacher and the school system and might in some circumstances be a
serious shortcoming, it is not the form confirming that a conference has
been conducted that is the substantive requirement,
but rather that the conference was conducted. Here the testimony revealed that the conferences were held.
addition, if there had been deficiencies in the evaluation process, Ms.
Brock had the right to file appeals but did not.
3. Ms. Brock was not provided the necessary resources to improve her performance contemplated by the PBES.
Brock argues that the "key" support for her defense that she was
not provided the necessary resources to improve her performance, is that she
did not receive the support particularized in her January 15, 2004,
The terms of the PIP provided that she was to be given release time
to observe classroom management. However, the release did not occur until
April, which was after her second formal observation and annual evaluation
report for 2003-2004. She contends that because of this delay in needed
support, her formal observation and annual evaluation report for 2003-2004
should be devalued in their importance.
The evidence reveals that on January 15, 2004, Ms. Brock received
both a Performance Review Report, CEO Exhibit No. 5, and a PIP, CEO Exhibit
No 7. While the
PIP stated that the assistance to be provided to her would include
release time for her to attend demonstration lessons on the techniques and
strategies of effective teaching, the improvement plan also provided that
"Administrators will provide articles and release time to attend
demonstration lessons on effective teaching techniques and strategies."
In a Memo dated January 23, 2004, Re: "Article on Teaching
Styles and Strategies," the Principal furnished Ms. Brock with
materials on "Teaching Styles and Strategies" (CEO Exhibit
addition, the PIP enumerated other assistance that Ms. Brock would need from
the Principal to help correct her problems.
For example, Ms. Christ,
an Academic Coach, would review
lesson plans weekly and make recommendations for alternative strategies and
administrators would monitor lessons to ensure that instructional materials
and resources were suitable to
the instructional goals and productively engage students in meaningful
learning at all times. There was evidence, acknowledged by Ms. Brock, that this
assistance was provided. In her
testimony when asked she replied that "Ms Christ helped me. She helped
me a lot. She planned with me." (Tr. 446; 458-459) Ms. Williams too, according to Ms. Brock helped her.
"She would come up, she would come around"
and with Ms. Thomas, "would tell me . . . different strategies to use the next day." (Tr. 367)
However, following a formal observation on March 18, 2004, by the Principal, Ms. Brock's "Planning and Preparation," the learning environment that she created for her students and her instructional activities were judged in need of improvement. Consequently, after her Principal reviewed her PIP on March 26, she decided to continue Ms. Brock on her PIP.
while Ms. Brock may not have been given the release time before her formal
observations in March 2004 and her Annual Evaluation on April 1, 2004 (CEO
Exhibit No. 10), she continued to receive support to help her correct
problems as per her January 15, 2004 PIP.
For example, she observed several teachers, one a special ed teacher,
in April 2004 and testified that she "got a lot from them." (Tr.
370) In fact, she testified on cross examination that she acknowledged to
Ms. Williams that she had never received as much support as she had
at Coldstream during the school years in which she received unsatisfactory
evaluations. (Tr. 460)
However, her unsatisfactory performance continued
through the 2004 and the following school year as shown by
Brock also claimed that she did not have support and certain materials -
tapes, transparencies, etc related to the "Open Court Curriculum"
which is a step by step program that BCPSS had used since the late 90's to
teach students at the primary level to read using strategies such as
phonetics, letter sound recognition, and blending sounds together to make
words. She testified that she
had never been trained in Open Court when she started at Coldstream. 
However, on her October 21, 2004, Formal Observation Report, she commented
that she "would continue to work at learning open court the way (Ms.
Christ) showed (her) to implement the Plan."
(CEO Exhibit No. 19) In addition, when asked on cross examination
whether Ms. Christ had assisted her, "implementing the open court
series into your instruction .
. . and making it a part of your instruction,"
she replied that she could not answer yes or no to that, but she
conceded that Ms. Christ "told" her the "components of open
court," if that what you meant by implementation, because the
components are the same on every level." (Tr.
463) Thus, the record corroborates a finding of fact that Ms.Brock was given
instruction and support in the curriculum. (Tr.
76-77; 80-82; 336-338)
V. Conclusions of Law
public school labor relations dispute litigation where, as in the present
case, the LEA's right to dismiss a teacher is circumscribed by statute that
enumerates the specific grounds for termination, the employer has the burden
of producing evidence or other information sufficient to persuade the
Hearing Officer that such grounds to terminate the employee were present
- in this case that Ms. Brock was "Incompetent." BCPSS
has met that burden.
A major premise of the PBES, as well as a growing body of research, discloses that student achievement is heavily influenced by the quality of the teacher, and that the most significant gains in student achievement will be realized when students receive instruction from good teachers over consecutive years. The No Child Left Behind law recognizes that good teaching is central to all of the efforts to improve public education. Indeed, Title II of the law requires that every classroom have a "highly qualified" teacher by the end of the 2005-06 school year.
Ms. Brock's claim that her dismissal is not justified must
be assessed not only in terms of her rights as a teacher but in light of how
her classroom performance affects student learning.
testimony and documents amply demonstrate that Ms. Brock's performance
during the school years in question was "unsatisfactory." In each of those years, formal observations by "qualified
observers" corroborated the annual evaluations of her inadequate
performance in the classroom. While
she appended written comments on certain of these instruments, she did not
deny their substance, nor did she exercise her statutory and /or contractual
rights to grieve them under the BTU Agreement or to appeal them under State
her claim that she was given inadequate support, the record revealed that in
fact, Ms. Brock was regularly supported by the school administration with
support in each of the domains in which she was in need of improvement. The
evidence confirmed that even with support and assistance from colleagues, an
instructional support teacher and administrators, and even though only two
or three students were in her class for most of the two years in question,
Ms. Brock failed to show improvement in her instructional program and in the
maintenance of an effective classroom environment.
though the record of her performance exposes a distinct negative reflection
on her competence, the school personnel who testified were clear that Ms.
Brock had a genuine concern for her students and their welfare. As
her counsel described her, she "is a dedicated and caring"
teacher. (Tr. 287) Indeed, as shown on the documents that she introduced, while
she recognized the poor behaviors of her student, she sought to find ways to
improve their conduct. The
letter that she wrote to parents talked of the standards of behavior that
was essential for establishing and maintaining a successful learning
environment and encouraged their support.
Nonetheless, despite these admirable qualities, she did not provide the level of teaching that BCPSS had the right and duty to expect of her. While it is difficult to focus on any one comment or report in the evidence presented by BCPSS, the comment in Ms. Williams' April 1, 2004 Observation Report that Ms. Brock "allowed an atmosphere to exist that is a detriment to the learning process," and another in her November 24, 2004, Formal Observation Report, that allowing Ms. Brock to continue as a teacher in the BCPSS "contributes to some students being ill served by the school" amply demonstrate the danger expressed in the PBES that "Allowing incompetent teachers to remain in the school system continues to victimize the students." (CEO Exhibit No. 23) 
sum, the evidence as a whole confirms these comments and that allowing a
teacher who cannot effectively teach her students to remain in the classroom
is a disservice to the students. The
record as a while is persuasive that the CEO was justified to recommend
dismissal and that Ms. Brock's Appeal should be denied.
heard the testimony and carefully reviewed the evidence and arguments of the
parties' respective positions on Ms. Brock's Appeal of her dismissal, and in
light of the above
of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the Hearing Officer finds that BCPSS sustained
the burden of proof necessary to support the CEO's recommendation for
IX, § 9.1. B of the Agreement between the Baltimore Teachers Union,
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO ("BTU") and the Board, acknowledges
that the PBES is "official Board policy," and that its success
"shall require all BCPSS staff and administrators to faithfully
undertake the roles and responsibilities" of the policy and
"carefully follow" each of its steps (Jt.
Exhibit No. 1)
PBES explains that the "No Child Left Behind" legislation
"supports the systems' demand for highly qualified teachers and
effective teaching to increase student achievement."
the teacher "fails to make the agreed upon improvement," the
PBES is explicit that "additional steps toward dismissal should
"informal observations" are conducted, neither pre nor post
observation conferences are required but "the informal conference
should be followed by some type of constructive feedback process."
pre-observation conference had been conducted by Ms Thomas "...to
discuss the upcoming lesson, for the teacher to give ideas about the
objective, to talk about some special circumstances ... in the class that
effect (sic) the actual lesson ... or the teacher to get idea (sic) from
the qualified observer in ways to enhance the lesson." (Tr.
identified by Counsel during closing argument as CEO Exhibit No. 12. (Tr.
the open court curriculum had been in use in the BCPSS since 1997, there
was no explanation why Ms, Brock did not understand and use it in the
classroom before coming to Coldstream.
Exhibits Nos. 6 and 7 purporting to show that Ms. Brock understood the concepts of
controlling behavior in a classroom, revealed that on the two days
represented by these exhibits, her students were engaged in the very
behaviors that she listed as improper behavior.
as explained above, the school system has sustained its burden of
establishing that the interests of the students, the school system and the
public predominate over Ms. Brock's claim to continue her employment as a
BCPSS teacher, throughout a long and arduous hearing she conducted herself
with dignity, sincerity and candor articulating the same concern for her
students' welfare as she had for over 30 years of teaching in the public
school system of Baltimore.