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109 Acts To Dismiss Tenured Teacher

Stephanie Horwitz claims District would not make accommodations for medical condition.

Steps were taken to dismiss a tenured teacher by the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 Board of Education at its meeting Monday, according to a statement issued by the District.

Stephanie Horwitz was suspended without pay Monday pending a formal hearing, according to the statement.

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“On November 26, 2012, the District 109 Board of Education acted in open session to approve a Resolution to Dismiss a Tenured Teacher from Employment and to Suspend Said Teacher Without Pay Pending a Formal Dismissal Hearing for Stephanie Horwitz. This dismissal process is in accordance with Illinois School Code Section 24-12,” the statement read.

The District promised to release the full resolution once it was delivered to Horwitz.

Horwitz, however, said she has not been paid since March because she has been on unpaid medical leave. The Board’s action Monday did not come as a surprise.

“I knew it would happen because I was not able to come back in August,” Horwitz said. “I have a disability and the School District was not willing to provide reasonable accommodations.”

School Board President Ellen London has no comment to Horwitz’s statement.

The dispute between Horwitz and the District has been brewing for more than two years, according to a story published in February in the Deerfield Review. Horwitz had been receiving “excellent” evaluations for 10 years and then got one that was “satisfactory.

Two years after I received the ‘satisfactory,’ an administrator waited until the day before final evaluations were due—which was against the rules—to tell me I would be receiving an ‘unsatisfactory,’” Horwitz said in the Deerfield Review article.

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Deerfield Resident November 28, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Tenure - a union idea. Unions and tenure have no place in our society any longer - they are killing this great Country! Either perform at the highest level or get replaced for the sake of our kids. What's her disability so we can form an opinion if she got shafted or is just milking the system. Give us a story with some facts!!!! Unions and milking the system......well, I'm willing to wait 4 more years - if we make it!
Susan November 28, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Stephanie Horowitz...of all people to dismiss? She is and has ALWAYS been a great advocate for the kids.....she empowers, motivates and guides....What a big mistake!
barry November 28, 2012 at 03:49 PM
HEY....so called "Deerfield Resident"...the article IS NOT nor is the story about "tenure"....it is about the wrongful termination of one of the top employees in the District!!! The story is also about HOW MANY $$$ this wrongful decision will cost the District within the next 3 years as this will no doubt be eventually handled by the Federal EEOC with a ruling that enables this teacher to sue in Federal court....not State court. What does that mean? It means no games that State court allows. NO 9 year period of litigation. It means the process is fast, and ultimately will be a decision that again brings to light the deplorable decisions this board makes in particular to Special ED. and personnel. Look at this one causing us taxpayers 3 years salary and cost of benefits and the expense of paying Ellen London's chosen law firm for lousy representation. We the public are supposed to believe this Board is standing up to the union by firing a teacher. That's OK....except it's the wrong teacher, it's political and retaliatory, and just won't fly. Much could be done with the hundreds of thousands of dollars this dumb desicion is going cost us.
T November 28, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Stephaine is and was one of the best resource teachers our district has. If it wasn't for her my son would of foundered. The problem started with our district having unqualified supervisors who only cared what was written on paper and not about the student. The district had their chance to clear this up but it will cost them and all us taxpayers. It is too bad that our district is so unsupportive with special education. I tryied to fight for the kids behind us to no advail. I am glad to be out now but feel the pain of the others still needing services in this district.
Amy Parker November 28, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I had the great pleasure of working with Stephanie when I was a long-term sub a few years ago. She was 100% committed to her students, including those who had moved on to High School. She never gave up on them, and more important, never let them give up on themselves. It's my guess that she's too outspoken for administrators to tolerate. Very sad, considering the general mismanagement that brought her to the point of outburst. Overall, this is a loss for the district in my opinion.
eric lavine November 30, 2012 at 08:42 PM
"Unions and tenure have no place in our society any longer - they are killing this great Country!" Frankly, morons like you who see only black and white, and start raging without any logic or intospection are what have no place in our society. It is (Private Sector) Unions that created a 8 hour workday, stopped 8 year olds from working in dangerous factories, created mine safety laws..etc.. Without PRIVATE sector unions there is no check on cartels, monopolies, trusts, or trans-nationals looting the nation dry (which is exactly what has happened since PRIVATE SECTOR unions were largely undermined and destroyed by trade scams). On the upside, it makes a lot of red china communist generals into Multi-Millionaires who specialize in loaning its american profits back to our elected prostitutes to spend on defending someone elses borders in the middle east. PUBLIC SECTOR Unions are always a bad idea because they result in one segment of society voting itself salaries far above their contribution or value from elected officials who are spending other peoples money and dont care. This is a poorly outlined article because we have NO idea what the teachers 'illness' is, whether doctors have diagnosed it, or if she is accused of loafing or fakery. It seems unlikely that the school board is going to go to this step without substantial Medical evaluations that will testify to the illegitimacy or invalid claim of illness by this teacher.
eric lavine November 30, 2012 at 08:56 PM
"The story is also about HOW MANY $$$ this wrongful decision will cost the District within the next 3 years" Once again, you are - like the person you criticize - raging over a nonsensical assertion that is completely false on your part. The article makes zero mention of suits, the EEOC, etc.. The article really says absolutely nothing except that the teacher faces dismissal over work attendance issues, and implies that this is a unusual step given her 'tenured' employment status. You are seeing ONLY what you want to see, or personally adding what you want to see even if it does not exist in the actual text. She has a obligation to report to work at the assigned places and times she is instructed. She apparently has not done so for at least 8 months. To go on a long term disability status, with or WITHOUT pay, she had a duty to go to a doctor, submit to tests/exams, and meet the criteria for being medically diagnosed as a excused absence. It sounds (although the article itself gives no facts of any sort) like she did not, or could not, obtain a medical leave of absence from a medical doctor, and still failed to report to work. When that happens, almost all of us (who dont work for their dads company) get fired/dismissed a lot sooner than 8 months after our failure to report to work.
eric lavine November 30, 2012 at 09:04 PM
She didnt come to work... for at least 8 months. She cant be the ''best resource" to students if she is gone for a entire school year without a leave of absence or permission. Someone with a legit illness, cancer, heart disease, etc.. is not going to have difficultly getting a leave or even paid-leave. It seems strange that no one can say what this womans 'illness' or disability actually is. At some point, you either do the job you were employed to do at the time and place you are assigned to report to, you get a legit medical clearance that places you into a temporary approved leave status, or you are fired/terminated. The whole point of her hearing is to give her the chance to establish why she should not face dismissal for her failure to report to work. If she has a legitimate explanation and medical proof from a certified medical doctor then she has nothing to fear from the hearing. Any teacher who does not come to work raises large expenses for district taxpayers who must pay for a substitute while also paying somone for not working. This is not caring for kids or serving the public interest, and must be dealt with when someone fails to do their job.
eric lavine November 30, 2012 at 09:13 PM
"...when I was a long-term sub a few years ago." So, you are reporting that multiple district teachers seem to have made a habit going on LONG-TERM leaves, if you were able to "SUB" for them over the long-term, in the school district. You got paid and economically profited from these long term leaves by teachers, and can't say enough nice things about them. People who did not get a check or job from the school district each time that one of these teachers decided that their 8 month work schedule was to much for them and went out on leave, opening a job for you, probably feel a lot different when they get their tax bill each year with the school assessment costs going up each time. Either she was at work the 8 months she was accused of being absent without leave or she was not. You cant initiate a teachers dismissal for "being outspoken" as you say, using the justification that they were absent for a entire year without leave, unless they did not come to work for a year, without leave. This seems to render you argument nonsensical. Either she came to work, or she didnt. If she is so 'disabled' why not a single mention of what the disability is that she is claiming?
Amy Parker December 01, 2012 at 05:25 PM
to EL: What are you talking about? Many people take leaves of absence from their jobs to deal with illness or injury. I long-term subbed for a teacher on maternity leave, and a couple of teachers who were out recovering from surgeries. I also long-term subbed when an aide resigned unexpectedly and her position was temporarily unfilled. Students come to school every day, and someone has to be there to take care of them! I worked WITH Ms. Horwitz when one of HER aides was out for back surgery. This happens in districts all over the country, not just 109. Yes, I was paid for my work, as I should have been. There is nothing financially irresponsible about that! As for your summarily dismissive attitude about the eight-month work schedule, I will remind you that teachers work extremely long hours, take work home almost every single night, often come to school on weekends to plan or otherwise ready their classrooms for constantly changing curricula and daily activities, and are not permitted to take days off around weekends. Many teachers take time out of their own summers to continue planning or to engage in professional development course-work on their own dimes. I am not defending Stephanie's leave of absence. I don't know the details. I merely meant to point out that I thought she was a wonderful teacher, that the political climate in this district has been toxic for a long time, and I'm sorry this has happened.
jkhimmel December 01, 2012 at 11:48 PM
You seem very defensive. A lot of people work long hours, can't take Fridays off, take work home with them, etc.. teachers are actually some of the LEAST affected. (both my parents were teachers and the reality is they had their entire summers off, went travelling each year with us, and really did not do much at home that was not work they chose not to do during school hours for their own reasons) Ask anyone with a career in sales, no guaranteed job, no base salary, no pension or benefits, about the hours they work a day at home, on their own time, or while travelling. The teachers can cry me a river. You would go into convulsions after one week of what private sector sales has to go through and has to earn every day, with no tenure. It sounds like- 1) Stephanie got a bad evaluation for some reason which made her mad, 2) she then decided to retaliate against her supervisors by staying home and collecting her salary while the taxpayer had to pay a sub to do her job (the toxic work environments go BOTH ways - mgmt>staff as well as staff >mgmt) 3) she continued on this tantrum beyond a point at which one can simply call in 'sick' under the union contract, and was obligated to provide medical confirmation of her illness to continue being carried on a 'leave' status. 4) she either failed to provide any valid medical evaluation, or ignored this responsibility, thinking that she was protected by the public union and could not be fired.
MSB December 04, 2012 at 06:28 PM
-OR- jkhimmel, there could be yet another interpretation of what really happened…. Basically, you have two b*tches running the district who are on a power trip – the superintendent and her friend, the school board president. (Wake up girls- your sandbox is only a grade school district – not really big time here - but your actions are destroying the lives and opportunities of the kids you are supposed to be serving and you’ve pissed off a lot of people.) The district made a decision to cut Special Education services/programs and had its student service coordinators carry out this dirty work – nasty individuals whose primary goal was to cut, deny and combine services. Teachers who spoke out on behalf of their students were pulled aside and reprimanded for doing so – hence the subsequent hold out in teacher negotiations concerning special education this past year. Another one of the district’s horrible and insensitive decisions was to cut resource rooms which provided additional instruction, reinforcement and homework help for its students. As a result, the district no longer needed Ms. Horwitz’s services and began the process of digging up dirt to have her fired, despite her many years of exemplary service. (I know firsthand because our family was called by one of the coordinators to provide information in order to build the case against her.)
MSB December 04, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Working in an environment in which you are threatened by a witch hunt, I would imagine, would be very stressful. Ms. Horwitz took a district approved leave of absence as noted in the Board minutes. She has since asked for some medical accommodation in order to return to work. The district has denied this accommodation and is now in the process of firing her. Individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination in employment primarily by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act and therefore this could very well be a federal violation under the EEOC. This district’s stance is not surprising since, as mentioned above, it also engages in the practice of denying Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, which is an educational right of children with disabilities in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This too is firsthand knowledge and backed up by the many families who spoke up at board meetings concerning district service cuts over the past year despite the district having millions in reserves. Is this how we want our community district to treat individuals – our teachers and our students? Goier and London are two pathetic individuals whose services are no longer desired in this community or district. What a way to leave the district and end their career - in total disgrace and shame. Good riddance!
Amy Parker December 04, 2012 at 08:51 PM
To JKHimmel: Your parents were teachers in a totally different time. It is absolutely NOT THE SAME now. Teachers today are expected to perform herculean tasks, often with few resources and very limited time, and--not so much in District 109, but in many other districts--with students who are utterly unprepared for school, struggle with poverty, hunger, and other forms of deprivation. Then teachers are blamed when students don't perform. Yes, my father was also a teacher and had summers off. During which time we traveled, camped, and ate a lot of hot dogs because there wasn't much money during those months. I know many people who teach today, including my sister. She has about eight weeks off during summer and spends at least part of that time preparing for the coming year and engaging in professional development. It is unfair to compare teaching to other professions as if it were just another job. It really isn't. Teachers are under a microscope in ways that many other workers are not. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but rather a much different kind of working environment than many people seem to think. I used to wonder why teachers always seemed so distant and afraid to talk to me as a parent; now I know that saying ONE thing wrong to ONE person can stir up a hornet's nest of trouble in a district. It's sad.
Mom December 05, 2012 at 12:19 AM
I am astonished at the comments that people are making regarding this teacher. The negative ones that is. You all make assumptions and we all know what happens with assumptions. I am disguted that some of you believe that a long standing highly regarded teacher prior to this happening this year, would just walk away from a job. You don't even know the facts to the story behind this, I agree with MSB as I too went back to the board minutes, she was on paid medical leave until it ran out and then unpaid medical leave. People if you know how medical leave works in a job ie Eric then you know that you have to have doctor notification in writing to get it approved. So, there blows your theory Eric.
Deerfield Dad December 11, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Mom, this is a silly blog with the same goofs posting over and over. I am astonished that you are taking these comments seriously. I mean really???
do it for the kids December 20, 2012 at 10:06 PM
MSB/Stephanie sock-puppet- You can either do her job, or not. You were allowed to take a leave, which 95% of the general workforce cannot do in the private sector.(without quitting) You then wanted to dictate her working terms and claim you are disabled from stress. The school does not agree, and you have the option to claim a Social Security disability and see if they will award it to you. In light of recent tragedies surrounding schools its not a good idea to put someone with mental issues into a position controlling an supervising other peoples children. This is too great a responsibility for someone who is conceding that they are suffering from mental problems. She should not be allowed to set foot on school grounds while not in her right mind. Stephanie can file for a disability pension and prove she is entitled to one if she wants to, but this will require her to concede that she is mentally ill and this could affect her in other areas. Whatever is done, the school has a responsibility to kids first, and cannot let someone take control over large numbers of young children who is not able to deal with their own emotional or mental health problems as that is a giant powder-keg of liability and could lead to another tragedy.
MSB December 21, 2012 at 03:58 PM
I believe the article states that she requested a medical leave for a disability – one that has not been published. Given your unique ability to remotely diagnose her disability, her prognosis and future acts that she might commit, you should be aware that 26.2 percent (or 57.7 million) of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a mental disorder in a given year. Additionally, others suffer from alcohol and substance abuse. Since we have the ability to treat and accommodate many of these conditions, it would not be feasible to remove them from the workforce or put them all in institutions.
protect them kids December 23, 2012 at 02:26 AM
we certainly cannot have someone who is mentally ill being given charge of 30 or 40 defenseless children. If she is unable to control herself, and her own psychiatric problems then she is DEFINITELY not in a state of mind to be able to manage, care for, discipline, or protect literally dozens of children with their own behavioural issues. I am so glad the school made the decision to protect the kids first, and ensure their safety. Everyone needs a job, but this woman with her mental problems needs to find another career. I hope she gets well and heals, but right now its not about her, its about protecting the kids.
MSB January 02, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Lol. Given your “logic”, you are suggesting that anyone who takes a medical leave (be it knee surgery, breast cancer recovery, taking care of a sick or elderly dependent) should not be able to return to work because they may do harm to her students?? -- despite giving the district 9 – 10 of exemplary service. Wow, take your witch hunt somewhere else.

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