A Miami-Dade School Board member lost his license to teach in Florida on Thursday after legal controversies in New Jersey followed him to Florida.
At a hearing in Naples, Florida’s Education Practices Commission revoked School Board member Steve Gallon’s educator’s certificate, which enables him to work as a school principal and English teacher, and permanently barred him from reapplying for certification.
The revoking of his certificate will not strip Gallon’s position on the School Board, where he has been outspoken about numerous issues, including the district’s oversight of struggling schools in poor communities and its spending on school construction. But it could prevent Gallon, who currently works as an education consultant, from ever returning to the classroom as a teacher or administrator.
Gallon’s attorney, Levi Williams, called the decision “harsh and unjust.”
The commission chose the toughest possible penalty instead of opting for lighter sanctions, such as a fine or a written reprimand.
“The system failed us in delivering a just decision,” Williams said. “Dr. Gallon is a life-long educator and servant of our community and we’ll review all our options.”
The commission’s decision was based on the revocation of Gallon’s school administrator certificate in New Jersey, where he served as the superintendent of Plainfield Public Schools from 2008 to 2010.
Gallon was arrested in 2010 over allegations that he used a false address to enroll his godsons in school. The charges were later dropped and Gallon does not have a criminal record in New Jersey. The New Jersey Department of Education revoked Gallon’s school administrator certificate in 2012.
That means Gallon is in violation of a Florida statute that gives the Education Practices Commission the right to discipline educators who have had their certificates revoked or suspended in another state, the commission found.
Gallon and his attorney argued that the allegations in New Jersey were politically motivated and that Gallon’s years of service to the Miami-Dade school district should be weighted against his troubles in another state.
Gallon started his career as a teacher in Liberty City and rose through the ranks, serving as an assistant principal and later as the principal of Miami Northwestern Senior High, a position he held for seven years.
Gallon also worked as a school district administrator overseeing alternative education programs for at-risk students before moving to New Jersey.
Once in New Jersey, Gallon told the commission, he ran into political opposition. “I did not stand for the status quo that consistently failed those children,” Gallon said, explaining why he feels he was targeted.
The commission noted Gallon’s work in Florida, but decided to uphold New Jersey’s sanctions. The state didn’t make it clear if Gallon’s action would have violated Florida’s standards for educators.
“I appreciate your commitment to education and your lifelong service, but that does not erase what we are here to discuss today and I very much believe that we need to uphold what New Jersey is doing at this time,” said Christie Gold, the commission’s presiding officer. Commission members told Gallon that if he is able to obtain a new certificate in New Jersey, the commission would be willing to reinstate his certification in Florida.
The initial complaint against Gallon was filed in June 2016, after Gallon had declared his candidacy for the District 1 School Board seat he currently holds. Williams said the complaint was filed by a disgruntled former business partner.
“I certainly think when he decided to run some of his opposition certainly took advantage of the situation in New Jersey to use the complaint process in Florida to try to taint him,” Williams told the Miami Herald two days before the hearing.
This is not the first time Gallon’s New Jersey arrest has haunted him in Florida. The issue came up repeatedly during last year’s School Board campaign, with Wilbert “Tee” Holloway, a former board member Gallon defeated, and other critics bringing up the scandal at candidate forums.
In a statement issued after the hearing, Gallon said the decision “in no way impacts my educational or professional service.”
“My attorney will review next steps while I remain focused on my service to the students, staff and community,” he said.
School Board members are not required to have a teaching certificate or any education experience. While the commission’s sanction does not affect Gallon’s standing as a School Board member, it could impact his ability to get public support for future board proposals.
School Board Chair Larry Feldman declined to comment on the revocation, other than to say that Gallon “is in good standing” with the board. A spokesperson for the school district said that “it would be both inappropriate and unfair to comment on a duly elected board member serving on our School Board.”
UPDATE: This article has been updated to state that Steve Gallon does not have a criminal record in New Jersey. Gallon provided the Miami Herald with a copy of a letter from New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General stating that Gallon does not have a criminal record.