Teacher in catastrophic car accident fired by Clark County School District – Las Vegas Review – Journal

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Posted: Oct. 1, 2012 | 8:00 p.m.
Updated: Oct. 2, 2012 | 12:06 p.m.

He died twice in a rollover car accident.

The weight of the car crushed all of the ribs on his left side and punctured his lung, which shut down his other organs after it deflated. His heart stopped twice, medical professionals said. But that night April 29 was only the beginning of Pat McGuinness’ misery.  

When his mind cleared of the haze of a drug-induced coma in mid-June, the single father discovered that he had lost his teaching job at the Clark County School District’s Advanced Technologies Academy.

“And my arm was gone,” he said, looking down to his left side. His arm was outside the window when the car rolled onto the driver’s side. “I know I can teach. I lost an arm. Big deal. I can think.”

McGuinness, a Clark County computer sciences teacher since 1998, discovered he had been fired when he went to the high school, near Rancho and Vegas drives, to pick up his course list. Assistant Principal James Burt, who had been temporarily promoted to principal because of a retirement, told the teacher to clear out his room, according to McGuinness. His license had expired, and he had been fired.

Attempts to reach Burt and school administration through the district’s communications office were unsuccessful.

McGuinness, 51, knew he had until the end of the school year, on June 7, to renew his license. He, in fact, had all the completed license renewal documents in his glovebox at the time of the April accident, ready to turn in.

Since those documents never made it to the Nevada Department of Education, his license expired and the district terminated him, said district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson, noting that his license lapsed long before his accident.

McGuinness’ license expired Sept. 1, 2011, months before the accident. But the state gives teachers until the end of the school year to renew, which often causes a “stampede” in May, said Jeanette Calkins, supervisor for teacher licensing in Northern and Southern Nevada.

And the department would have made an exception for McGuinness, if it only had known, she said Monday.

“My gosh, why didn’t the school district contact us?” Calkins said. “We would have given an extension without question, absolutely.”

But the school principal never told the district’s human resources department about McGuinness, Fulkerson said.

Before terminating McGuinness, human resources did ask the principal whether there were any special circumstances. The principal reporting nothing and didn’t have information about McGuinness’ whereabouts, Fulkerson said.

Teachers and students visited McGuinness in the hospital. They all knew.

“It’s not like I fell off the face of the earth,” he said.

But he was “supposed” to die, said McGuinness, whose family and friends moved all of his belongings to storage while he was in the hospital, hanging by a thread.

In a district of nearly 18,000 teachers at that time, how was human resources to know without being told? It remains unclear why the school never forwarded this information.

Regardless, McGuinness reapplied for his license on July 31 and now could legally teach computer sciences to grades six through 12, Calkins said. But he still failed to land a job in the country’s fifth-largest district of 357 schools.

Without any income, McGuinness and his 14-year-old son couldn’t afford electricity for their apartment, so he ran an extension cord from a nearby garage for the basics: refrigerator, microwave and television, so his son could play on his Xbox.

“It was like camping,” he said. “There was no way around it.”

The family of two, without any other close family members, downsized from a two-bedroom apartment to a studio.

After 12 job applications and a half-dozen interviews, he was still fighting his way back into the district. And he couldn’t figure why.

“It’s not like pulling teeth,” he said. “It’s like pulling dragon teeth.”

Fulkerson said the district is legally prohibited from revealing job applicant information because of privacy laws, but applicants are evaluated based on experience and references from previous supervisors and must be “competitive” with other applicants.

McGuinness wondered why the district gave him the cold shoulder.

“I’ve given 11 years of my life,” he said. “I have an accident and now this. For what? What did I do?”

He ran through the possible blights on his record.

In the accident, he got a ticket for taking the off-ramp too fast and losing control of his vehicle. Not a fireable offense

He butted heads with his school’s assistant principal over curriculum, but that couldn’t be enough, he contended. Four of his students placed first in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, one of the world’s most highly recognized student technology competitions. One of the students met President Barack Obama as a result.

McGuinness took his problem to the top Thursday, speaking to the School Board and superintendent during the public comment period of a meeting. He spent six hours crafting his brief speech at the podium. In the end, he spoke off the cuff.

Neither the board nor superintendent usually replies to public comment. But Superintendent Dwight Jones made an exception.

“I was not aware of your situation or story, and we’ll follow up immediately tomorrow,” Jones said.

To celebrate, McGuinness took his son to KFC that night.

Still, he’s not being reinstated at a school, as requested. He is being thrown back into the application pool to swim or drown, and can’t figure why.

But the district has worked with the state Public Employees Retirement System to get him disability retirement, which will amount to about $ 1,250 a month.

“It’s been a blessed day,” said McGuinness after signing the papers on Monday.

He will take the money, but only until he finds a teaching job.

If the district doesn’t rehire him, McGuinness said he will move to arbitration, arguing that he was wrongfully terminated.

“I’m not trying to piss anyone off. I just want my job back,” he said as tears welled in his eyes. “I don’t want to go on disability.”

He took off his glasses. After one wipe of the eyes, he reached for his glasses and put the ear grips in his mouth one at a time, opening his glasses with his teeth. He carefully slid the bridge to his nose.

“I keep thinking things are going to be better.”

car-accident – Google News

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