As Top Staffers Depart, Murphy’s Education Department is Strained, Understaffed, and Lacking ‘Institutional Knowledge’September 27, 2022
MATRISCIANO: Murphy’s Education Department Hoards Power in NJ’s Sex Ed Wars. Here’s How To Change That.September 28, 2022
Four years ago the Westfield Board of Education filed tenure charges against Frank Fuzy, a third-grade teacher in the district. After much litigation–including Fuzy suing the Board—earlier this month the State Board of Examiners suspended Fuzy’s teaching license for three years.
Your tenure system at work. Westfield can’t get rid of Fuzy for good because the State Board says he has “an otherwise positive education career” and his annual evaluations historically labeled him “effective.” In what other profession does good performance a decade ago protect someone from losing their job due to current poor performance? Yet it happens all the time: for instance, in 2019 in Lenape High School a teacher was let off with a 60-day suspension after being “creepy and weird” to high school students and writing “ni**er” on his chalkboard. The same year the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District school board voted in April to bring tenure charges against a seventh-grade teacher for saying to his students, “something to the effect of ‘I’m done with these n******,” or ‘I’m not trying to deal with these n******” but the arbiter dismissed the charges entirely because “firing him is not warranted” and he was ‘muttering to himself and never intended to be heard by students.”
I suppose you could argue in Westfield the system the State Legislature negotiated with the state teachers union worked: Fuzy, a 2013 “Agricultural Teacher of the Year,” has been barred from teaching in New Jersey until 2025 because, according to news reports, he had a habit of “making threatening comments to other teachers, talking about his guns and calling students stupid and making them cry.”
Yet this isn’t the first time he faced disciplinary action. In 2014 he got a four-day suspension for throwing Post-It notes at a student and hitting her in the face.
And things escalated.
Fuzy made threatening remarks to another staff member in connection with Principal David Duelks, asking him to observe another teacher. Fuzy, who expressed anger about the request, told another staff member that he is ‘six feet tall, weighs 230 pounds and has 26 guns.’
The district also alleged that Fuzy had stated, ‘what are you, stupid?’ to his third graders and had caused them to cry.’
The school board, according to the arbitrator’s ruling, “likens threats of violence in reference to gun to the equivalent of yelling ‘fire’ in a private movie theater.”
The Board’s tenure charges–a step in due process according to NJ’s teacher tenure law when districts try to fire teachers—include that Fuzy repeatedly told colleagues that he owns lots of guns and keeps one in his car (Fuzy has denied he told anyone that that he keeps one of his guns there) and that he frequently posts about guns on social media.
The Board can’t fire Fuzy—but the district has a three-year reprieve. So much for due process.