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Editorial Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 26, 2006

Hearing process too long and too costly

We waited for two years, along with the rest of the Voorheesville school community — the parents, the students, the staff, and Robert Crandall himself.

Over those months, we wrote that Crandall was no longer teaching physical education classes or coaching at Clayton A. Bouton High School while his case went through a state-regulated hearing process. School officials and board members, following state regulations, remained tight-lipped as parents pressed for answers on the accusations against Crandall.

Some of them worried about unknown harm that might have affected their children. Others defended the coach, who had been with the district since 1978 and was widely known as a teacher who liked to be friends with his students.

Last month, that process — dictated by Section 3020-a of State Education Law — came to an end. A hearing officer found Crandall guilty of four charges brought by the school district. While the district had sought his dismissal, the hearing officer, citing "his long and largely successful teaching career with the district and the nature of the misconduct" found that dismissal was not appropriate "under a just cause standard."

Rather, he said Crandall should be suspended without pay for 60 days. The school board last week voted to follow through with this discipline, which began Saturday.

We have no quarrel with this outcome. Certainly, the charges were serious enough to warrant punishment. Crandall was charged with "misconduct, insubordination, and conduct unbecoming a teacher."

He was charged, for example, with telling a female student, when she asked, as he was making a list of addresses, why he wanted to know where she lived, "So I can follow you home and come to your house and murder you in your sleep."

Crandall said this was sarcasm while the district saw it as a threat.

Crandall was also charged with asking a male student who the hot blonde was that he was running with. Crandall testified that he did not remember exactly what he said but that it was something about the flock of women always surrounding the male student.

The other two charges he was found guilty of stated that he treated two female students who had filed harassment charges differently than their classmates.

Based on medical testing submitted in Crandall’s defense, the hearing officer concluded clinical scales were in the normal range and there were no significant psychopathologies.

The district had cited Crandall’s prior disciplinary history as well as its own psychological evaluation to argue that Crandall would not change his behavior in the future.

We hope Crandall has learned his lesson; his behavior has to change; such remarks are inappropriate.

Where we have our quarrel is with the system itself. The 3020-a process, which is the only way a tenured teacher can be dismissed, was supposed to have been streamlined a number of years ago. School districts were keeping problem teachers on the payroll because the dismissal process was too cumbersome and too costly.

In Voorheesville’s case, two years is too long, and the costs are too high. The district told us this week that it had paid a total of $178,911 in legal costs and in salaries and benefits for substitute teachers and coaches to replace Crandall for the months he was not allowed to work at Voorheesville.

Additionally, as we reported in December of 2004, Crandall was being paid his annual salary of $73,150 plus benefits. We were told this week that he also received the increases over that time as stipulated in the teachers’ contract.

All tolled, taxpayers footed the bill for more than $325,000.

Superintendent Linda Langevin told us that many of the delays occurred because of conflicts in schedules between the hearing officer and the lawyer from the New York State United Teachers, representing Crandall.

"I would have preferred if it have been handled sooner," said the superintendent.

Indeed, so would we all.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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