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Ripon hearing: Statewide importance
IronCLAD requirement for teachers dealing with non-English speaking students?
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RIPON - Teachers throughout California are closely following Ripon High instructor Terri Messick’s challenge of a state edict to obtain certification that her teaching techniques are sensitive to the needs of non-English-speaking students.

The outcome of the Ripon Unified administrative hearing seeking to dismiss Messick for not becoming certified as being able to accommodate limited English speaking students may initiate change in other school districts’ teachers’ certifications that will be required for them to teach in the classroom.  Not all districts now require specific additional course work to meet the cultural needs of English learners as a condition of employment.

The Ripon Unified School District action against 30-year music and performing arts instructor Terri Messick is serving as a test case to uphold termination for teachers not taking cultural CLAD courses in all the state’s school districts.

The hearing before a panel of three – an administrative law judge and two teachers – began on Monday and is expected to conclude by next Monday in the Ripon High multi-purpose room where Messick, for years, has coordinated student plays and conducted school concerts with no one questioning her competency as a teacher.

Messick has been charged with “unprofessional conduct”  in refusing to take the extensive instruction that Ripon administrators said would have better prepared her for dealing with “English Learner” students – a course that spells out the differing cultural mores of children coming from different countries.

CLAD, which translates as Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development training, has been achieved by all the teachers in the Ripon district, according to Superintendent Louise Nan – with the exception of Messick who has claimed she didn’t have the 40 hours to devote to the course.

She has, however, recently taken a new upgraded version of CLAD known as (CTEL) or California Teacher of English Learners.  Messick has completed all three sections now totaling 60 hours of instruction and has also completed the testing.  She scored passing grades in the first two sections and fell short by four points in the final part of the class – retaking that this Saturday.

Completion of the course work is no guarantee toward her employment within the district should she be sanctioned in the hearing.

Messick received a pink slip in March due to the district budget cuts that also brought a downgrading of the music program and the elimination of her after-school performing arts class that produced numerous high school plays over the years.

Messick pink slip not connected with dismissal hearing
Elementary schools music instructor Byron Yerzy is scheduled to take over as music director at Ripon High when school opens in August.  Messick was reportedly let go because she had less tenure.

The pink slip dismissal has no connection with the hearing where past and present administrators have testified that Messick is unfit to be a teacher and agreed that she is a poor role model because she chose not to take the mandated course.

The CTEL course she recently completed now calls for 60 hours of classroom time and the passage of the three increasingly difficult testing elements.  

The test includes: Language structure and use, first and second language development and their relationship to academic achievement, assessment of English learners, foundations of English language/literacy development and content instruction, approaches and methods for ELD and content instruction, culture and cultural diversity and their relationship to academic achievement and culturally inclusive instruction including the study of family and community involvement.

The layoff due to the economy would have given her first choice on her regaining position for 39 months if it were to be opened again in the future.  

During the first two days of the hearing former school district superintendent Leo Zuber was questioned on the witness stand about his concerns with Messick that dated back to 2002.

Wednesday saw Messick’s California Teachers’ Association attorney Tom Driscoll and the school district attorney Marleen Sax direct questions and cross examine former administrator Lisa Boje’, and current superintendent Louise Nan.

Boje’ said she assisted Zuber in preparing the “unprofessional conduct” memorandum against Messick dated in 2004.  She related that through an email Messick had promised to get the course work behind her at the University of San Diego in 2006  - which didn’t occur, she added.

The former administrator said that emergency ESL certification was not obtained because Messick said she didn’t plan to get it.  Boje’ said Messick did take the training from the San Joaquin County Office of Education but didn’t achieve the certification because time ran out on her application.

“She just gave up on her efforts to continue the classes,” Boje’ said.

Messick had gone before the school board in April to appeal her position saying she didn’t understand that the consequences of her lack of action could mean termination, Nan said Wednesday.

Nan said Messick didn’t feel that the board was very responsive to her plea. The current board did not overrule the termination action of the members of the former board of trustees, she said.  

Asked by the school district’s attorney, Marleen Sax, whether she felt that Messick could actually have been too busy to take the course work, Nan responded: “Not busier than any other teacher who is too busy, including myself who has the certification.  It is a 24/7 job to be a high school teacher.”

Messick has received generally positive evaluations from her principal, however Nan said she feels the teacher has been “unprofessional” by not taking the CLAD courses.

It was noted that the required certification was based on a 2002-2003 agreement between Zuber and the Ripon Teachers’ Association that was actually an oral memorandum of understanding that they never got around to putting down on paper.

In his cross examination of Nan, CTA attorney Tom Driscoll asked if she knew the names of any students who were denied access to Messick’s music classes.  She responded that she knew of none by name.

The attorney then asked the Ripon superintendent if she knew of any parent who had complained about not being able to get their students into Messick’s class.  “I don’t know that any such person exists,” she said.

Nan noted that Hispanic parents are very respectful of teachers and other staff members and she felt they would find difficulty in making such a complaint.