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Paul Rolly: Test-bucking teacher gets canned during spring break

Published April 9, 2014 7:49 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As predicted by her supporters, the teacher facing disciplinary action from Granite School District for speaking out against and refusing to grade a required standardized test was quietly fired when nobody was looking.

Ann Florence, an honors English teacher at Wasatch Junior High, received a certified letter March 31 from Assistant Superintendent Mike Fraser telling her that she was officially terminated.

She was out of town last week, after being placed on paid administrative leave, and didn't get home to find the letter until Monday. The termination came about three weeks after Wasatch Principal Christine Judd said she was recommending district disciplinary action for alleged insubordination.

Florence continued to teach after her conversation with the principal and pressed the district for a resolution after she met with Fraser. District spokesman Ben Horsley said personnel decisions take time and that Florence had been unreasonably aggressive in demanding an answer.

But American Federation of Teachers representative Liz Weight worried the district was waiting until spring break, when the teachers and students were away, so the firing would get less attention.

Florence was placed on administrative leave March 27 after she told her first-period class that she was facing disciplinary action and might be fired. Spring break began March 28, and the letter was mailed March 31.

When students learned of the disciplinary action on March 27, they started a petition drive and obtained nearly 100 signatures in one day supporting their teacher.

Florence refused to grade the writing portion of the districtwide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students' and teachers' time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher.

In a letter to her students, she said she loved her career but had to stand up for principle.

Creative ticketing • First, after much hand-wringing over a $1.5 million shortfall in parking revenue, Salt Lake City Parking Enforcement ticketed drivers for the mysterious fading of the registration stickers on their license plates.

When the city got flak for that, the enforcers went into neighborhoods and issued tickets for parking more than 12 inches from the curb. That drew criticism as well.

Now, they're giving tickets to people who are not even parked.

Phil Winston was picking up his daughter after a Ballet West rehearsal at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday night when a parking cop slapped a ticket on his windshield while he was inching behind several other cars, which also were getting children.

He not only was not parked, his car also was still moving, he protested. He told the officer that she was about to be inundated with many more drivers picking up young dancers, but she was unmoved. He noticed she gave a few more tickets to motorists while they were waiting outside.

The tickets were for parking in a construction zone — even though it was 9 p.m. and no construction activity was underway.

When Winston continued to object, the enforcer told him if he kept it up, she would have him towed.

Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke, upon hearing Winston's complaint, said he will bring up the issue with other council members to see if an ordinance is needed to rein in parking cops.

Spread the joy • This is National Public Health Week, so the American Public Health Association has posted on its website several articles promoting public health.

One urged readers to sign a petition castigating pharmacies for selling tobacco products.

"It's time for all pharmacies and wellness retailers to put their customers' health ahead of profits from tobacco," it said. "Please add your voice to the growing number of people and organizations working to stop the epidemic of tobacco-related death and illness. Sign APHA's petition calling on wellness retailers to pull tobacco from their shelves and share it with family, friends and colleagues."

APHA might want to rephrase that last sentence.

prolly@sltrib.com