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Off-script teacher seeks 2nd chance by wearing sign

Sep 21, 2009 | Palm Beach, FL-- A Palm Beach teacher who admitted she'd been unfaithful to the new district lesson plan chose a very public way of asking the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation not to punish the district for her slipup.

As a gesture of good faith, Mary Morgan, 45, stood outside the Division of Human Resources parking lot at 3300 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach, with a handwritten sign that said, "I cheated" and "Honk if you think I deserve a second chance." On the back she wrote "I love my scripted lesson plans. I really do," which was notarized by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

Van Roekel, disturbed when he heard about a teacher breaking the union compact with the district, rushed to Palm Beach to broker a deal.

Morgan, a National Board Certified teacher of 22 years experience, said she knew she was in trouble when the school principal overheard her admit in the faculty room that she was reading Trumpet of the Swan to her last period group of third graders. Acknowledging that reading aloud is a violation of the script, Morgan said she felt overwhelmed by the rules of departmentalization which require her to repeat the same script six times a day.

Morgan's physician confirmed that she is being treated for a virulent form of post-traumatic distress disorder that is emerging in schools scrambling for Gates grants.

"I used to have 22 third graders, and I knew their strengths and weaknesses very well. I could help each child find a book he liked to read," said Morgan "Now I have 128 students and not a chance in the world of knowing anything about them because I'm supposed to deliver a script"--so the district can measure me and we can get the millions of dollars Bill Gates is handing out to districts that can prove they have effective teachers."

As the newly-appointed Chief Academic Officer for the district, Jeffrey Hernandez told district teachers, "When you're off script you lose your measurability, and without measurability there can be no effectiveness."

"A lot of people think there are a lot of good ideas out there," said Robert Dow, president of the county teachers union when asked to comment on the situation. "We just have to figure out which ones."

Told that Palm Beach is no longer in the running for the big Gates Foundation Intensive Partnerships to Empower Effective Teachers program, Morgan said, "If I stay on script, we might get in on Race to the Top."

— Susan Ohanian



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