State: Miami-Dade school officials retaliated in charter conversion case

Miami-Dade school officials retaliated against employees who tried to convert a school for severely disabled students into a charter school, the Florida Department of Education ruled Thursday.

The decision upholds a previous finding by an administrative law judge, and caps the state’s first case of retaliation for attempting a charter-school conversion.

Florida law protects parents and school employees who vote to make their public school a charter school. Charter schools also get public funding, but are run by a board independent of the school district.

This summer, an administrative law judge found that Miami-Dade officials tried to block the conversion of Neva King Cooper Educational Center in South Dade. The school’s principal and assistant principal were then plucked from their jobs and sent to pack crayons and copy documents for the district.

Robin Gibson, the attorney representing the school officials who brought suit against the district, said it was clear that the school board had run afoul of the law.

“It’s almost like they took the recipe for what they were not supposed to do, and did exactly that,” Gibson said. “It was almost defiant.”

Principal Alberto Fernandez and Assistant Principal Henny Cristobal will not get their old jobs back, which they petitioned for. Both have been reassigned to positions comparable to those they held before, the Florida Department of Education ruled.

In an emailed statement, the district said it’s “satisfied” with the ruling.

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