I agree -- it's atrocious. More to the story, maybe?
Teacher fights for jobPublished in the Home News Tribune 10/05/04By RICK MALWITZSTAFF WRITERSOUTH BRUNSWICK: George W. Bush is president of the United States, and every public school in the township has pictures of him to prove it.However, it is a presidential portrait taken down on Friday that started a controversy which has drawn national attention.Shiba Pillai-Diaz, a teacher at Crossroads Middle School, was told to remove a picture of President Bush and his wife, Laura, from her bulletin board before being told by her principal to "get your stuff and get out," according to her version of events.Following a meeting later Friday with Schools Superintendent Gary P. McCartney, who told her she was not fired, she had intended to return to teach yesterday.However, she changed her plans yesterday and hired an attorney to plead her case after McCartney distributed to district staff and the media his version of events.His statement, he explained, was in response to "her aggressive efforts to get herself national media attention."Pallai-Diaz told her story Sunday on "Good Morning America," on the ABC Network. Last night she appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" on the Fox News Network.The problem was never the picture, according to McCartney, ". . . but rather a zealous misuse of seventh- and eighth-grade student instructional time."According to his version of events, she once told pupils she was "glad they were not old enough to vote." She has also been accused of telling a student, "You should be ashamed to be a Democrat."Pillai-Diaz denied saying anything of the sort. "You would have to be incredibly stupid to say those things to a student," she said, adding, "I don't talk politics with the kids."She explained she changed her mind about returning to the classroom because of the prejudicial nature of McCartney's version of events. "I don't how I can go to that school again after he distorted everything and sent (the letter) to all the teachers," she said, while waiting to tape her interview in the New York studio of "The O'Reilly Factor."Interviewed yesterday, McCartney said if Pillai-Diaz stopped making political statements he would allow her to return to the classroom and even return the picture to the bulletin board, telling her, "I encourage you to do so."According to McCartney, pictures of the president are "openly displayed" in all district schools.A teacher at the Monmouth Junction School has displayed a portrait of President Bush for four years, without incident, said McCartney.McCartney said it was Pillai-Diaz who removed the picture and pictures of the president's dog, the Oval Office and the Declaration of Independence. She said she also had a picture of Air Force One, and a poster with a signature of all the presidents.Pillai-Diaz' display, accompanied by her rhetoric, he said, "took it out of the realm of education and made the presentation appear partisan to many of our students and parents."Earlier in the school year she had on top of her cabinet a stuffed elephant, symbol of the Republican Party, for which Pillai-Diaz served as a volunteer at its national convention in New York.Pillai-Diaz joined the district this year as a language-arts teacher. She had previously taught in Brooklyn and Tenafly. She is a Cornell University graduate and has five years' teaching experience.Prior to the beginning of classes this year, she missed a teachers' meeting in August while volunteering at the Republican National Convention.McCartney said parents had e-mailed Principal Jim Warfel, concerned about the nature of Pillai-Diaz' passion for politics in the classroom.The controversy was elevated Thursday on back-to-school night, when three parents got into a heated political discussion with Pillai-Diaz. "It was just three (parents), out of all the classes," she said.Friday, she said, Warfel called into her office, telling her, "You've caused more disruption, hatred and anger than anyone I've known."She said yesterday the principal told her to "get out," which she interpreted as being fired. "When the principal says get your stuff and get out -- what would you think?" she said.After the confrontation with the principal she left the building. She returned to retrieve her belongings, accompanied by a police escort, which she requested for her own safety. She was joined by union representative Sylvia Lee, and they discussed the incident for two hours with McCartney and Warfel.McCartney described her leaving the building as "abandoning her post of duty and her classroom responsibilities. At no time was she told she was suspended or fired."McCartney said he told her that principals do not have the power to fire employees, that it is a duty of the Board of Education.McCartney bristled at the suggestion the controversy had anything to do with Pillai-Diaz's support of the president. "We have plenty of teachers who are staunch Republicans," he said.McCartney said he welcomes images that show respect for the United States and its leaders. "I am as patriotic as anybody you would find. One of the biggest failings in our society is the loss of respect," he said.The story had legs yesterday, in part because it involved the picture of a president involved in a contentious election. "You might say it is a symbol of the Great American Divide," is how ABC reporter Ken Rosato began his segment on Good Morning America.Board of Education President Robert F. Long stood by McCartney's actions, including his decision to make a detailed statement available to the media. "There always is 'The rest of the story,' said Long, who called the statement a "clarity of the facts.""We are in the education business, not the political business," said Long.When O'Reilly asked Pillai-Diaz last night whether she intended to take the district to court, she said, "I am looking into what my legal rights are."
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