Complaint of BB Guns, Pills and Lack of Oversight at Botello Mostly "Unfounded" (Updated)

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Felix G. Botello Elementary School
Elliot Monteverde-Torres, the third-grade math teacher at Felix G. Botello Elementary School in Oak Cliff, hasn't seen the district's report regarding his complaint against the school's principal, but he knows it isn't favorable for him. Like us, he heard that the district had finished the report, which it was required to submit to the Texas Education Agency, when WFAA reported that the district determined "nearly all of the allegations to be unfounded."

Among a laundry list of other things, Monteverde-Torres alleged that Principal Angel McKoy did not do enough to discipline a child who took a BB gun to school and another child who passed out prescription drugs. Since submitting his report in March, Monteverde-Torres has been outspoken about his opinion that McKoy has fostered a culture of fear and retaliation, an unpleasant environment that affects the children. Fifty parents signed a letter supporting the math teacher and criticizing the principal's leadership.

Following the complaint, the district placed Monteverde-Torres on paid leave. Unfair Park is waiting on a request to the district for a copy of the full report. Though he has not read the report that reportedly dismissed most of his complaints, Monteverde-Torres is unwavering in his position. "I stand exactly by everything I said." He requested a copy of the report from the TEA, it had not yet been provided.

He says he feels responsible to the school's students, many of whom are children of undocumented immigrants who fear deportation if they speak out. "Those children, I have to treat them like they're my own children," Monteverde-Torres says. "You have to take responsibilities for those children."

Last month, Monteverde-Torres graduated from the University of Texas with his masters in educational administration as part of a competitive two-year program for which he was selected by the district. That was before his relationship with the leadership at Botello Elementary became so rocky. Now, the district is not renewing his contract to teach, and his paid leave expires this week.

Nonetheless, the math teacher says, this isn't the last the district will hear from him. "I will continue to fight this," he says.

Update: DISD spokesman, Jon Dahlander, cannot comment on personnel issues, as dictated by district policy, but he did suggest that we include a bit of context that Joe noted in March, when Monteverde-Torres filed his complaint.

Before submitting his complaint letter, Monteverde-Torres had been told that his contract would not be renewed for the following school year. He was essentially fired, but he said that he would have written the letter anyway. The teacher told Joe that he had been a "probationary" employee, which meant the district could pull his contract for the following year without explanation. After he continued butting heads with his principal, Monteverde-Torres told Joe, the district did just that.

We'll have more on this when we get the district's report, which will likely show another side to the story.

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Elliot Monteverde-Torres
Elliot Monteverde-Torres

The so-called internal investigation by Dallas ISD’s Office of Professional Responsibility appears to be a total farce, all of its 190 page report. Although I have yet to see the report itself, rumor has it that the key witnesses were not ever contacted or interviewed (i.e., parents, students and teachers at Botello Elementary School). If this true, the time will come when OPR will have to explain such a material discrepancy. Full disclosure and transparency of unethical or illegal behavior in the public sphere is particularly important. I wonder, for example, whether the report discloses the existence of referrals, which are legal documents. After two months investigating, it appears that Dallas ISD has not produce results. One could argue, instead, that the lengthy procedure was unnecessary and it further unreasonably exposed children at Botello to hazardous conditions. I don’t think that the regrettable incidents registered after my forced paid leave, placing the children at Botello at imminent danger, can sensibly be ignored. OPR, however, did ‘interrogate’ me last April for about 90 minutes, in a process more akin to a long, drawn-out method of psychological intimidation in which minimization was also used as a way to downplayed the seriousness of the matters in controversy and falsely instill in me the sense that I am likely to get in trouble (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Of course, as I’m certain that law enforcement officials in OPR themselves can validate, none of the repressive antics and/or techniques yielded the desire result. Not only do I continue to stand by my version of the story but I was not intimidated, at all. In spite of the purportedly crooked DISD investigation, TEA’s investigation is still an ongoing matter. I have also learned that parents at Botello did file notarized complaints with TEA and that at least one of them – after it was found meritorious - has been forwarded to the Department of Investigations of Educators in SBEC for possible violations of the Code of Ethics by Principal Angel McKoy. Last April, WFAA also aired a news segment of an interviewed of a mother and son, a student at Botello ES, denouncing the free from care circulation of controlled substances and his ingestion of an unknown medication without Principal McKoy – in contravention of protocol and the law - having the smallest of concern for the health and safety of the minor. The public can only speculate whether OPR, as part of its investigation, gave this testimony any serious consideration. Rumor has it that the mother and child were never contacted or interviewed by OPR or any ‘caring’ DISD official.  If the testimony was deemed immaterial, OPR will surely and shortly let taxpayers in Dallas know that it used ‘prudential judgment’ to justify ignoring the facts, albeit at the expense of putting children’s safety after everything else. OPR’s duty, of course, is to investigate fraud, abuse and employee misconduct within DISD. The Penal Code, section 37.10(a)(1) makes it a criminal offense for a person to knowingly make a false entry, in or a false alteration, of a government record. The key word here is ‘knowingly’. Again, I have yet to see the 190 page report, a government record. On account of the superb concept of ‘integrity management’ permeating all through Dallas ISD I surmise that a false entry or false alteration is undeniably out of the question, right? We shall see. Meantime, in the Level I Grievance, last 05/10, DISD alleged that the reason for putting me in paid leave was none other than my decision to distribute among my colleagues copies of TEA’s 1-page letter placing Botello Elementary under investigation as a result of the “serious irregularities” at the school. In other words, the “alleged, potential misconduct” that forced the district to place a certified and successful math teacher with an average Math TAKS passing rate of 92% (2008-2011), was the circulation of said letter. The actual shooting of a student on school premises is neither here nor there, what’s important for the district is to relentlessly go after unsafe employees who distribute treacherous letters. In the process, children’s right to receive an education from a highly successful certified teacher (not a substitute) just 4 weeks prior to the new STAAR Math standardized examination was irresponsibly trampled upon. After all, we’ve seen before how children’s rights at Dallas ISD seem to come after everything else, regardless of rhetoric. In conclusion, it appears that Dallas ISD has opted to reward Ms. McKoy’s actions by paying for her exorbitant legal fees (Attorney Diane Bowen, Fisher & Phillips, circa $450 per hour) and allegedly naming her principal at Soto Elementary next school year, despite of the above and the fact that in less than 18 months, Botello Elementary went from Exemplary status to Recognize status under her rule (leadership wouldn’t exactly be the right word). Meanwhile, concepts such as safety and legality continue to be largely indefinite in Dallas ISD. As for DISD spokesperson John Dahlander, and without referring to any preceding legal treatise on the subjects of complicity, fraud, immorality, and public corruption, one question remains: how he'd react if one of his children had been shot in school? or had his child come home saying that she had generously ingested several unknown controlled substances at school with the knowledge and consent of the school’s supervising adults? I realize Mr. Dahlander is just ‘doing his job’ – like the Gestapo in Nazi Germany did - but is tempting to consider whether given similar situations involving his kin, would he apply different principles or stick by the ones he’s now using, a.k.a ‘kill the messenger’, ‘character assassination’? Mr. Dahlander, in case you did not know, there can be collective moral responsibility for actions and collective moral responsibility for omissions.  The saga continues. . . Elliot Monteverde-Torres, B.A., J.D., M.Ed.Certified Bilingual TeacherFelix G. Botello Elementary School – DISD*Currently in paid administrative leave for my commitment to students, safety, education and keeping abuse and criminal allegations from going unnoticed.

Eyes WIde Open
Eyes WIde Open

I hope he sues the snot out of DISD and wins.  The district hasn't focused on improving education in decades.  It just brings in a new superintendent every now and then, hires some new senior administrators, comes up with some new great sounding programs that never accomplish a single thing except making consultants rich, and life goes on.  What a crock.

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