What it took for Woodbridge to fire teacher who called students ‘Loser!’ on Facebook
WOODBRIDGE — An elementary school teacher who was fired after calling students losers on Facebook has been suspended from teaching anywhere in the state for two years.
But it took more than one incident and many years for the public school district to give this unprofessional and stubborn teacher the boot.
Paula Weckesser, a 30-year veteran, lost her tenured position in 2013 after district officials documented a pattern of "unbecoming conduct and insubordination" and inappropriate and disrespectful behavior over a prolonged period of time.
Other teachers have been luckier. Last year, New Jersey 101.5 reported that an Ocean County teacher had to be offered his job back after he had been accused of inappropriately touching girls. A state-appointed arbitrator said district officials had not sufficiently backed up their charges against the teacher.
Officials in this Middlesex County district, however, did not have that trouble.
Among Weckesser's transgressions:
— She was repeatedly late to work.
— She did not keep number grades for students, calculate grades fairly, or record grades in a timely manner.
— She did not assign students enough work.
— She refused help from supervisors, saying that she did not want to take advice from anyone less experienced.
— She violated regulations by having a cellphone, and answering it, during a 2008 standardized test.
— She hurled profanity at a cafeteria worker with students present.
— She treated students poorly, including making a student stand for 45 minutes because he had fallen asleep in class.
— She responded to student comments on Facebook and called some "Loser!!"
In 2013, the commissioner of education upheld her termination because her behavior "demonstrates she is unable to act in a manner that is conducive to a positive school environment," adding that she had been "unwilling or unable to improve her inappropriate behavior for the betterment of the school environment."
The State Board of Examiners, which licenses teachers in the state, last year commenced proceedings against Weckesser.
Weckesser denied the findings and conclusions by the commissioner, but took responsibility for actions.
She and her attorney argued that revoking her teaching certifications would be a "draconian penalty" and that losing her job was punishment enough.
She told the board that she has learned the effect her words and actions have on others, and that she now understands that she has to be open to taking guidance.
Because she was remorseful and took responsibility, the board last month voted to suspend her teaching certificates for two years instead of revoking it.
Other teachers who have lost their certification this year include a Deptford teacher facing charges of "upskirting" girls, a North Brunswick teacher who liked to joke about underwear, a Roselle Park substitute who attacked a utility worker, and a teacher convicted of trying to sell weapons to terrorists.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5.
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