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Union Chief Backs Fired Teacher

The Board of Education ignored the recommendation of an impartial panel and fired Oscar Williams, a tenured middle school teacher, for abusive conduct towards students.

Bruce Mellion, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers that represents Williams, says the board did not follow the proper procedures when firing the math teacher at Ponus Ridge Middle School.

"This is not an emotional issue but a legal issue," says Mellion. "The administration has to pass a very high bar to terminate a teacher. They did not prove the case. They didn't follow the rules and procedures." Mellion adds that "This has cost the taxpayers." He estimates the cost at $300,000 to 350,000, including the administrative leave and lawyers fees. Williams plans on seeking "recourse," says Mellion. "It will move to a court setting."

The board voted, 7-1, vote to fire Williams after reviewing the 54-page report by the three-member panel. "The findings showed enough evidence for termination," said Board Chair Glenn Ianaccone, who said the panel's findings are not binding. Board Member Steven Colarossi voted against termination and Jack Chiaramonte was not present at the meeting.

In June 2008, Williams, a Norwalk teacher since 2000, was put on paid administrative leave. School administrators cited poor teaching,  inappropriate and abusive conduct towards students and his refusal to follow his supervisors. On many occasions, Williams used crude language. He called a student "a punk" and told another one that she "looked skanky." Williams told students to "shut up." He asked a student "how would you feel if your mother was a whore," and later explained it as a "teachable moment." The administration claims that Williams did not show up to meetings and administered the wrong Connecticut Mastery Test.

The panel's recommendation to not terminate Williams hinged on the lack of a paper trail. "There were no written warning or suspensions in Williams' file, " states the report. "The evidence showed that Williams was never disciplined for any reason, including the alleged misconduct giving rise to this matter." In addition, there were only two written evaluations on file in which Williams was deemed proficient. Of the three panel members, one member supported termination.

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