A cautionary tale for Board of Ed members from a Scarsdale teacher
Monday, March 3, 2014
by Christine Yeres
Last Tuesday’s Board of Ed meeting was packed, not so much by budget-watchers, but by students, parents and one parent-and-teacher who had all come to plead that the Board find a way to retain tech teacher and wrestling coach Mike DeBellis in next year’s budget. John Harrison, a resident of Chappaqua with three children (one in the wrestling program) in CCSD and Chair of the History Department at Scarsdale High School, told board members a story of “how my own professional life has benefited by some of the decisions this school district has made over the last few years.”
Harrison recalled for Board members the “much beloved Social Studies teacher” who was “reduced” two-and-a-half years ago from a full-time to a 0.6 position—the result of the decrease in the high school population projected for 2011-12. [Harrison did not use the teacher’s name, but records show—and board members, parents and students remember—that it was history teacher Patrick Healy. NCNOW will use his name below, though Harrison did not.]
At the time, Healy had the least seniority in the Greeley History Department. He did not accept the part-time offer from CCSD and was hired that September by Scarsdale to teach World and American History. CCSD’s decision to reduce Healy’s job turned out to be, Harrison pointed out, Scarsdale’s good fortune.
“I know great teachers when I see them,” said Harrison, “and I called Healy the next day and I said, ‘I hear you’ve just been reduced at Greeley. Do you want to come interview for a job at Scarsdale?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely.’ He came, he interviewed. I hired him almost on the spot and he was awarded tenure last year and is one of the absolutely magnificent members of the Scardale High School Social Studies Department.”
“Claudio Phillips [a previous speaker] mentioned the celebration that would occur” at the school district that gets DeBellis if CCSD lets him go, said Harrison, “Well, I actually attended a celebration for a member of this school district [Healy] who was excessed and who I hired immediately because I knew how good he was. A comment was made earlier that ‘Leaders need to protect good staff.’ And I haven’t looked at this budget closely. I don’t know what other cuts can be made. But I have to ask you as leaders of this district, to do two things. One, recognize the wonderful teacher that you have in Mike DeBellis; second, recognize that there are school districts out there—perhaps the one that I work for—who will hire him quickly.”
There was one more part to Harrison’s tale. “There was a phone call made when [Greeley history teacher] Steve Houser retired [at the end of school year 2013] because there was an opening. And the phone call came in to Scarsdale High School and Healy answered the phone and they said ‘Would you like to come interview for the position?’ and he said ‘No, thank you.’ So there it was. Houser had left and the position was open. But they couldn’t hire Healy because I had hired him already.”
“Scarsdale students are benefiting tremendously,” said Harrison, “from the training and experience and the years of dedication that Patrick Healy put into this school. I would hate to have that story told a few years from now, where someone would come up here and talk about how they had hired Mike DeBellis away when Chappaqua had excessed him in the spring of 2014.”
In the video of the Board of Ed meeting of last Tuesday, embedded below, Harrison speaks at the 1-hour, 43-minute mark.
Related: Patrick Healy will teach World and American History at Scarsdale H.S., 9/11/11.