IRA PAUL, Florida
"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd." Bertrand Russell
I am a mathematics teacher at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Sr. High School. I am a veteran teacher with 24 years of experience. Like most of my colleagues, I remained relatively invisible until October 1995, when I filed a grievance. Since I was not a dues paying member of the teachers union. I was forced to either fend for myself or have my employment rights violated. I chose to fend for myself. The next thing I knew, I was put into a position where I was forced to take on the entire school district. The system I was forced to take on was most incompetent. The school district showed no interest in resolving disputes in the workplace. It was only interested in protecting the weakest link in the chain at my school, the principal. I'm assuming your school district works the same way. When the grievance went into arbitration, the outcome proved to be a major embarrassment for the school district. The Miami New- Times ran an article; "You do the Math" dated November 26, 1998.
This was my first grievance with the School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida. I represented myself pro se, and the grievances proceeded to arbitration. The school district placed stumbling blocks and obstacles in my way. Fortunately, I was able to overcome them. A hearing was held on May 13, 1997 (FMCS 96-10133) in which Gerald A. Williams, Esq. represented the School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida. On July 10, 1997 the Arbitrator ruled in my favor.
On September 4, 1997 the School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida filed a motion to vacate the initial and supplemental award in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Dade County, Florida, Case Number 97-20258 CA (25) "The School Board of Miami- Dade, Florida v. Ira J. Paul". I again appeared pro se, filed a Motion to Dismiss and called up a hearing on my motion. Circuit Court Judge Phillip Bloom, husband of Elaine Bloom, ruled in my favor. Since the school district refused to resolve the amount of back pay, I requested another arbitration hearing.
A second arbitration hearing was held on November 24, 1997. The issues involved the back pay award and whether the Respondent-Employer acted in bad faith. On February 3, 1998, the arbitrator ruled in my favor on all issues. A third hearing was held on May 19, 1998 to decide the amount of the bad faith damages. On August 3, 1998 I was awarded over $388,000.
The School Board of Miami-Dade, Florida then voted to seek outside counsel, and paid $75,000 to Henry Latimer of the law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott to overturn the award. Henry Latimer, a former Broward County Circuit Court Judge was presently serving a two- year term on the Florida Bar Board of Directors. This time, I hired legal counsel to represent me in the Circuit Court and Appellate Court proceedings (Case Number 97-20258 CA (25), and Case No. 3D99-1898). Although the court severely reduced the amount of the judgment on legal-technical grounds, it did not disturb the finding in my favor for the breach. Nor did the court of appeals disturb the detailed factual findings of bad faith conducted against me by the school board.
I appealed the decision to the Florida Supreme Court pro se (Case No. SC00-1123). The school board voted to retain the Eckert Seamans law firm and paid them an additional $15,000. The Florida Supreme Court denied jurisdiction. I then resolved his case with the School Board of Miami-Dade County in January 2001.
For the most part, I'm left alone. I've finally earned the respect I'm entitled to. Whether or not I'm liked or hated by the hierarchy of the school district that I work for, they certainly respect me. I have written op- ed's, have appeared on local TV, and occasionally speak out as a teacher advocate, many time taking positions that are at odds with the teachers union and the educational bureaucracy.
As teachers, we are not treated as professionals. The main reason good teachers leave in droves is due to the way they are treated by the system. Please feel free to contact me.
Ira J. Paul, President
Teachers for better Education
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