By Jim Vail
The Chicago Public Schools agreed to lift the Do Not Hire (DNH) designation on Jan Peczkis, thus restoring his eligibility for employment with CPS.
Peczkis was first featured in the Secondcityteachers news blog when he was fired and placed on the DNH list for allegedly falling asleep in class on a substitute assignment.
It was later determined that this 16 year veteran teacher was diagnosed with sleep apnea, an illness in which people can fall asleep during the day. Peczkis later underwent treatment and his apnea was later fully corrected.
Peczkis began his fight two years ago when he asked the Chicago Teachers Union to try to get his DNH (do not hire) designation removed. An attorney from the CTU told him that substitute teachers have no rights of grievance, as their hiring or firing is solely an employment decision by CPS. Furthermore, a DNH is simply an employment decision not to hire a particular person in the future. There is nothing in the contract that is being violated, so there cannot be a grievance. However, the CTU agreed to make an informal request on his behalf. The Office of Employee Engagement repeatedly refused the CTU request.
Next, the CTU suggested that he ask school principals to ask that the DNH be removed from his file, based on the idea that CPS is more likely to listen to a principal than the Union. Three principals expressed sympathy, but expressed fear of getting involved. Two did make the request. One was ignored, and the othe was denied with the rather terse statement, "He has been told multiple times that his request is denied."
He then contacted Second City Teachers after he read about a substitute teacher who was fired for trying to prevent a student from crossing a busy street and possibly saving the kid's life.
Second City Teachers then agreed to interview him and published his story in last month's issue that generated a lot of reader interest. http://secondcityteachers.blogspot.com/2014/03/dnh.html
I then advised Mr. Peczkis to speak to the Chicago Board of Education about his situation.
Second City Teachers and Substance News have worked with whistle blowers and teachers unfairly fired over the years and have advised many to take their case to the board of ed.
Meg Sullivan, who blew the whistle on Aspira Charter School for illegally strip searching female students, was fired. She then contacted Substance where I wrote about her case before she addressed the board of ed. Her story was later picked up by the national press after her lawsuit was filed, forcing newly hired education secretary Arne Duncan to respond to the charter school controversy. Sullivan later settled her whistle blower case with Aspira.
Peczkis gave a great speech to the board members, concluding, "A teacher who commits a crime should not be allowed to teach in the CPS again; somebody like me with a corrected condition should."
(he appears at the 19:30 min. mark)
"I feel wonderful," Peczkis said. "It shows what can happen if you fight for your rights!"
After earlier this year receiving a letter from the board of ed denying his appeal to have the DNH removed, he received this letter from David Ruhland, director of employee engagement, this week:
"I am writing to advise you that the do not hire designation ("DNH") has been lifted from your file. As a result, I am pleased to inform you that it has been determined that you are eligible to reapply for employment with the Chicago Public Schools."