Wednesday, March 12, 2014

DNH: CPS Do Not Rehire Policy

Another Wonderful Teacher on Do Not Hire
By Jim Vail

Teaching science can bring a world of joy to the children in a classroom filled with wonderful experiments.

Students are crossing a dinosaur trail of fossils, working on a home made wind tunnel to measure the differences in air pressure or constructing a mouse trap to illustrate Newton's law of force.

This was the world of Jan Peczkis, a veteran science teacher who specializes in biology and geology and has a masters in earth science. He is a walking scientist in a lab coat who loves children and was a regular teacher at Budlong Elementary school for almost ten years.

Until he was told there was no more funding at his school and he was forced to do substitute teaching eight years ago.

Then just over a year ago, Chicago Public Schools fired him for sleeping in the classroom.

It turns out that the budding science teacher, who had subbed over 400 times at 50 different schools, was just afterwards diagnosed with sleep apnea, a night time breathing disorder that can cause one to fall asleep during the daytime at inappropriate times.

Mr. Peczkis successfully underwent therapy to address this problem and he passed the rigorous test called Maintenance of Wakefulness, which is the same test given to professional drivers and pilots.

Despite this fact, the CPS refuses to take him off the infamous Do Not Hire or DNH list after he just recently appealed his case.

Had Mr. Peczkis been a full time teacher, he would have had certain rights and protections at the time of his firing. But being a substitute "at will" employee, his firing and refusal to be considered for rehire was made all the easier.

"Subs have no rights," Mr. Peczkis told Second City Teachers recently.  "I've been a sub at will and I can't file a grievance."

It is important to note that during these dark times of fear and manipulation, substitute teachers have to be especially careful when subbing. There are informers everywhere, and it seems, the more who go down, the better the numbers to show their masters.

Peczkis said one time he was accused of taking food from a student, a charge CPS later determined had no merit, but when one has no rights, can also result in an easy termination on the spot.

"My computations on the attached spreadsheet (CPS sent in response to a Freedom of Information request), show that 60% of all complaints end in their firing and DNH designation," Peczkis wrote in an email.

This energetic educator has that rare combination of an academic mad scientist (he also does some research at Northeastern University) who loves working with children. He sets up wacky and wonderful experiments and is a super story teller. Unfortunately, somebody this good is also a victim in a heartless system due to no fault of his own.

"All of this really breaks my heart," he said. "I have to live with this everyday. It's made me depressed."

In the current union contract, there is a discipline code for firing teachers. A teacher has to be written up at least 3 times for violating the same infraction before he or she is terminated. It is a process of fairness to prevent principals from arbitrarily firing employees due to political or personal reasons.

In a profession in which many veteran teachers are not able to find jobs because of their age, this is very important.

In the specific case of Mr. Peczkis, his sleep apnea disability can only be a basis for a complaint if he had told his employer and no accommodations were made, he said.  However, if the disability is found after termination, the employer is off the hook, he said.

One lawyer said he may have a discrimination case, Peczkis said.

This makes the wonderful science lab teacher who continues to substitute teach (and tutor) determined to try to win his job back, and get removed from the do not hire list.

He plans to address his case to the board of education and continue to plead to anyone that people like him should be in the classroom working with children, and not labeled unfit to teach, especially when the cause was unknown at the time and has since been rectified.

No Action105
Written Reprimand74
1st Warning3
3rd Warning1
Resignation in lieu of discipline/DNH14
Total 453

blacklisting, sleeping on the job, gotcha workplace environment, SDB (sleep disordered breathing), employment law, FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), Chicago ENT, do not rehire, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), labor practices, MWK (Maintenance of Wakefulness) test, obstructive sleep apnea, blacklisted.


  1. My doctor is a world-class sleep specialist. He declared me safe to return to work, and also wrote that no workplace accommodation was needed.

    The reader should know that the MWK (Maintenance of Wakefulness) Test involves sitting still in a darkened room, for several 40-minute spells, over an 8-hour period. The tested person, of course, cannot have coffee, and cannot move around or perform any other action. Any sign of even impending sleep is detected by electrodes placed on the head. Obviously, this test is far more severe than any classroom environment.

    I passed without so much as a hint of sleepiness. My sleep apnea has been completely and demonstrably corrected. Obviously, if this test is good enough to hire a professional driver, wherein falling asleep would be deadly, then certainly it is good enough to hire a teacher for the classroom.

    Mr. Jan Peczkis
    16-year CPS teaching veteran

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. From: Mr. Jan Peczkis

    Now Fully-Corrected Sleep Apnea Case

    Amazing! I never expected my plight to attract international attention.

    However, it is hardly surprising that teachers falling asleep in class are not a rare occurrence. Many examples, filmed by children and teens, can be found on You Tube ( In addition, after having been accused of falling asleep in class, and informing those I worked with that I could be fired at any time, Chicago Public School children and office staff told me of teachers falling asleep in class and nobody telling on them.

    The incident involving me was quite prosaic. I was not interacting with the children. I had been sent to substitute teach in a pre-kindergarten class in which there were two assistants. They did all the work with the young children, and had me sit off to the side. I was sitting on a sofa-chair, for hours at a time, with nothing to do. Worse yet, the classroom was located in a poorly-lit basement, with a small window, and that on a gloomy day. (Oddly enough, I was sent back to the same school the next day, by the Sub Center, and the school administration did not refuse my services, or even say anything.)

    I had no idea that I was supposedly falling asleep, repeatedly, until a certified letter, detailing the complaint by an assistant principal, arrived six weeks later. Although a lawyer later informed me that the school staff did nothing illegal, I was surprised that I had not been called into the office and been told point-blank what was going on. [Had I known, I would have excused myself from the assignment, called my wife to pick me up, and had her drive me straight to the doctor for evaluation. What if this had been something that required immediate medical attention?]

    The incident occurred March 12, 2012, the hearing (Investigatory Conference) took place May 4, 2012, and the letter of termination was not sent by Chicago Public Schools until June 12, 2012 (coincidentally or not, at the very end of the school year). Note that the entire process took three months, and I was substitute teaching all this time without any further allegations of me falling asleep in class.

    My after-the-termination diagnosis, and correction, of sleep apnea, needs clarification. Sleep apnea is not something that can be diagnosed at home or in an office visit to a doctor. It requires an expensive, overnight evaluation in a sleep lab.

    As for the DNH (Do Not Hire), actually Do Not Rehire, policy of Chicago Public Schools, it is draconian. At one time, only teachers fired for criminal acts, or the like, were banned from working for CPS (Chicago Public Schools) for life. Now anyone who is terminated gets slapped with a DNH designation on his/her file.

  4. I'm sorry to say, but the huge swings from one pole of correcting things to the other pole is how education works today. Which is no surprise since this method has been taken from the huge and impersonal and top-down managed corporations that are now telling the federal government how to run school systems. We've swung from "every teacher gets a superior rating and no one gets fired" to the ruthless "the more we fire, the more it looks like we're doing our job." I've left being a teacher because I can no longer handle sitting on my ass all day, handing out worksheets and collecting them, and being in that Soviet-style, "gotcha" atmosphere. The schools, or I should say, the country's employers, now insist on teaching to the standardized tests. Less and less time is spent on a well-rounded education, or the joy of learning for that matter. Consequently, when I did enter a classroom, it was like walking into an office of Aetna Insurance clerks busily trying to clear their in-boxes of assignments before more work got dumped on their desks. What a dreary enterprise large enterprises have made of our schools. Name Withheld