Board of Ed approves disciplinary pact for district, teacher

Published Oct 15, 2018 at 4:00pm

A tenured teacher in the Rome school district’s early childhood program has been issued a letter of reprimand and been given a last chance to continue employment, in a disciplinary agreement approved by the Board of Education.

The agreement cites the district’s concerns relating to the conduct of teacher Christine Burke “regarding the care and safety of her students based upon three incidents during the...2017-18 school year of leaving individual students unattended.”

The agreement says that should Burke engage in any further unprofessional conduct, the district may terminate her employment or impose other disciplinary action, with the choice of penalties at the district’s discretion. It also says that should Burke be subsequently accused, she will have the right to a proceeding to determine whether or not she actually engaged in further unprofessional conduct.

The Board of Education at its Sept. 13 meeting approved an “agreement between the district and the Rome Teachers Association regarding employee discipline, dated September 6, 2018,” without further detail or public discussion. The Daily Sentinel obtained a copy of the agreement after filing a Freedom of Information Law request with the school district.

​Burke is a member of the Rome Teachers Association and has certain due process rights under state law and under the association’s collective bargaining agreement, says the agreement. It was signed Sept. 6 by Burke and Sept. 14 by school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake.

Among terms cited in the agreement, it said Burke accepts the terms of progressive discipline and agrees her behavior was improper and must not be repeated. It also said the district waives its right to bring charges through a proceeding seeking termination for the conduct as mentioned.

“The parties agree that, as a penalty for the conduct described...Ms. Burke shall be issued a letter of reprimand and accept the last chance provisions of this agreement,” according to the document.

The agreement said that with respect to a claim that could be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Burke acknowledges she retains the right to file such a claim and to participate in related investigations or proceedings, especially if the agency assumes jurisdiction. But it added she agrees to waive her right to recover monetary or other damages from the district for such EEOC claims.

The document additionally noted that “with specific reference to any claim of age discrimination that Ms. Burke may have against the district for allegedly violating the ADEA and/or the HRL, and in conformity with the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act,” she acknowledged she had an opportunity to consult with an attorney and her union representatives before signing the agreement. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act uses the acronym ADEA, while the state Human Rights Law uses the acronym HRL.

The document also said the agreement represents Burke’s voluntary waiver and release of claims that she might have under ADEA and/or HRL, and that the waiver and release does not not apply to any claims or rights that may arise after the agreement is executed.