School district fights teacher tenure system

Leaders of the Phelps-Clifton Springs School District were shocked back in January of 2007 when they say they discovered pornographic images on the laptop computer assigned to math teacher Michael Nicot. Now they're just as shocked at the disciplinary process for a tenured teacher that took more than two years and cost taxpayers more than $200,000.

"819 days of process." complained Superintendent Mike Ford, "There's no incentive for the defense side to hurry the process because they employee is fully paid during that time."

Nicot was found guilty of conduct unbecoming a teacher, neglect of duty, insubordination and acting in an immoral manner. The hearing officer imposed a six month suspension without pay and ordered the district to continue his health insurance. Superintendent Ford says the district feels he should be fired and intends to appeal the decision to the State Supreme Court.

"We want the communities to understand what happens in these situations." he said. "We've all heard of some of the urban school districts with their rubber rooms where there are hundreds of tenured teachers sitting in room doing nothing because there was no way to terminate the teacher."

Teacher Michael Nicot could not be reached for comment.

Carl Korn of the New York State United Teachers union says the disciplinary process called 30-20a proceedings are simply "due process." He added: "We have no stake in protecting teachers who hurt children or who tarnish the profession. We do have a stake in ensuring that anyone accused of wrongdoing receive a fair and impartial hearing."