Hope Moffett heading back to Audenried classroom

Posted: March 19, 2011

The Philadelphia School District's fight against Hope came to a surprisingly happy ending yesterday.

Hope Moffett, the Audenried High School English teacher who was exiled from her classroom for the last 19 school days and expected to be fired, will be back in front of her students on Monday.

Moffett, 25, will receive a five-day suspension after acknowledging that she didn't notify Audenried's principal on Feb. 14 that students planned to leave school to attend a rally on Feb. 15 "even though no parental permission had been submitted to the school," the district said in a statement.

"I stand by all of the things that I've done and I feel really happy that it worked out really well in the end," Moffett said after the arrangement was hammered out in front of a federal magistrate yesterday. "But I was prepared to go down all the way to termination. . . . I took a position I believed in, so I never really worried about what was going to happen."

The district had moved to fire her earlier this month after Moffett spoke out against plans to turn Audenried into a charter school, leading the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to file a federal civil-rights lawsuit seeking an injunction.

An administrator recommended that she be fired after the district charged her with endangering the welfare of children after she gave a student SEPTA tokens to attend the rally. She was also charged with publicly discussing her removal from the classroom.

From the beginning, it looked to many that the district was trying to silence a vocal critic of its controversial plan to hand Audenried over to Universal Companies, the development firm run by local music mogul Kenny Gamble.

"This settlement reinforces our belief that PFT members have the right to voice their concerns about workplace issues without threat of retribution or intimidation from their employer," PFT president Jerry Jordan said in a statement.

Despite being banished since Feb. 18 to "teacher jail" in the basement of a district administrative building - instead of helping prepare her juniors for the state assessment tests that they began to take this week - Moffett said she'll continue to speak her mind about the district's plans.

"All of their recent public statements have said this isn't a free-speech issue, so I take that to mean I can speak out to whatever extent [necessary]," Moffett said. "If they're so adamant that it's not a free-speech issue, then I'm going to use my freedom of speech."

Moffett said she'll do her best to get a job with the company if the plans to hand Audenried and Vaux Middle School to Universal go through. All of the school's teachers would then have to reapply for their jobs.

"I really want to see the students graduate," Moffett said. "I know for a fact there are other staff in the building who feel that way. We are so invested in [the students].

The district said in a news release: "Educating students is and will always be the No. 1 priority of the School District of Philadelphia. The parents of our students expect us to know the whereabouts of their children during school hours."

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