DRACUT -- The Dracut Public Schools and former 17-year Dracut High English teacher Robert Moulton have agreed upon Sept. 26 to present arguments to an arbitrator reviewing Moulton's firing last October.
Moulton said Friday he chose Sept. 26 from three dates (Sept. 26, 29 or Oct. 1) that were offered to him by the Dracut Public School District and American Arbitration Association case manager Molly Brown.
Brown informed Moulton that presiding over his hearing will be Mary Ellen Shea, a graduate of Harvard's Negotiation and Dispute Resolution Program and Kennedy School of Government, and experienced labor arbitrator on various panels, including the Massachusetts Division of Labor.
In his reply to Brown on Friday, Moulton asked to learn more about the venue for the hearing, and requested the proceedings be held in public session and televised: "All of Dracut (of course) will be tuning in, and I've been hearing that there is great interest in other school districts across Massachusetts and the United States."
Moulton was removed from his $75,000-a-year job by Superintendent Steven Stone for "insubordination and conduct unbecoming," on recommendation of Dracut High Principal Richard Manley.
Moulton said he was told he was dismissed because:
* He read aloud from his adult-themed, vulgarity-laden essay, "Song to Bob" to two classes. Moulton is a fan of Bob Dylan.
* A paraprofessional told Manley that Moulton had openly wrote and discussed profane words as part of his teaching. Moulton calls the paraprofessional a "spy."
* He resisted Manley's punishment after declining to submit advance lesson plans with more details than required of other Dracut teachers.
About 30 high school seniors held a "sit in" to protest Moulton's firing. An online petition to reinstate him gained more than 700 signatures.
Within a week of firing Moulton, Stone had the former Massachusetts Teachers Association "Teacher of the Year" award-winner served with a restraining order by way of the Police Department in Milford, N.H. where Moulton resides, warning that he will be arrested if he sets foot on Dracut School District property ever again.
The restraining order arrived on a Monday, three days after Moulton and his former lawyer, William Evans, attended a six-hour meeting with Stone, Manley, and School District Attorney Ed Morris at the district's 2063 Lakeview Ave. headquarters to discuss the reasons for Moulton's termination.
Though the School District kept the confidentiality of the closed-door hearing, Moulton offered his own detailed view of what transpired in a seven-page letter he wrote to Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester.
In his letter to Chester, dated April 7, a copy of which Moulton provided to the Sun, he formally petitioned the state education commission to grant him the arbitration hearing that is now scheduled for Sept. 26.
Moulton supplied Chester with a three-year chronology and description of events preceding his firing, an account that is laden with highly personal and derogatory remarks about numerous Dracut school officials, including former Superintendent of Schools Stacy Scott, who Moulton described in his letter as "a spineless, snake-dog of a man."
Also in his letter to Chester, Moulton referred to Manley as "shallow, hollow" and a "bully"; Dracut Teachers Union president Linda Dugan as a "nasty duessa;" and Stone as the superintendent whose "black beady eyes told me: 'No arbitration today, you have disrupted the system!'" wrote Moulton.
Moulton said he has been working as a painter to make ends meet.
Moulton also wrote a letter this spring to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, citing his case as a possible "turning point" in the "crisis of public education in America."
"Dear Mr. Duncan, I write to you with a heavy heart. The future of the youth of our great nation is at stake," Moulton began the letter to the Education secretary, a copy of which he supplied to the Sun.
"...Do we continue the status quo and become a common nation? Do we grind our students through a rigid, set curriculum and test, test, test?" Moulton also wrote Duncan, in part. "Or do we allow our teachers the freedom to share the wisdom they have gained in this world as they see fit?... I dared to do my own thing, and I was railroaded out of town."
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The following is the full text of Robert Moulton's letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:
April 21, 2014
Secretary of Education, USA
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Re: Petition for Arbitration between Robert G.F. Moulton and the Town of Dracut / Dracut Public School District
Dear Mr. Duncan,
I write to you with a heavy heart. The future of the youth of our great nation is at stake. Public Education in America is in crises, as you well know. My case just may be the turning point.
Do we continue status quo and become a common nation? Do we grind our students through a rigid, set curriculum and test, test, test, test, test, test? (Have you seen Roger Water's The Wall? If you have not sir, please remedy that soon. As Secretary of Education that is a required read. Please read it as a visual text from a genius mind with a great call to action on Education in England.) Or do we allow our teachers the freedom to share the wisdom they have gained in this world as they see fit? Please don't misunderstand me, sir. I am a strong advocate of Common Core skills. But the document is being misinterpreted by petty minds who hold administrative positions. Yes, all students should be able to exhibit mastery of certain skills. But how they do that, well, sir, that is where true education comes in.
At Dracut Senior High School, in the Dracut Public School District, the district that terminated me, the understanding from the administration and my department head (who, by playing politics, usurped my position as supervisor - you'll read it in the letter) is that all the students in each grade have to read the same novels, stories, essays, poem-- everything the same - so that we can have a common cornerstone assessment. I know this is not what the Common Core is trying to do, sir, but it is doing it! I dared to do my own thing and I was railroaded out of town.
Or is that the real reason? I wonder as I write. I fear it may be even worse. It may be about money. I fear that the town got word that I was going to retire after twenty years, collect my pension and completely switch to the writing life. This has been my plan all along. I am a gifted educator, sir, but I am an even better writer. I was called to write long before I was called to teach. But I knew I needed to hone my skills before I was going to make a living on my writing.
I am an honored educator, sir. I have a golden apple that was given to me by a previous administration at Dracut High School on my desk. I have a banner given to me by a previous administration's Renaissance Team as an exemplar of performance, promotion and partnership hanging on my wall. I received the Most Valuable Teacher Award from the Boston Red Sox organization in partnership with the Massachusetts Teachers Association - I was given free tickets to a Red Sox-Yankees game!
I could go on. But I'd like to cut to the core here. My greatest honor comes from the 777 students who wrote passionately about me on change.org when they heard of my potential termination from Dracut Senior High School. Please read the letters sir. Please. Brew some coffee, grab a bag of trail mix and sit down for three hours and read those letters. Then, please, try to answer the question: How on God's green Earth could a school district terminate this man? Politics, sir. It makes me feel ashamed to live in a land where Education is a game.
You are in a position to change the game, Mr. Duncan. Please help me to bring justice to Dracut.
I sent a hard copy of the letter I received from Mitchell D. Chester along with my response letter; I also included hard copies of my students' testimonials. I will attach an electronic copy of my letter to Mitchell D. Chester in this correspondence.
Go in peace,
Robert G.F. Moulton