Back in February, we told you about Melissa Dean, the 5th grade teacher at PS 143 in Queens, who decided her pal—locked up for a weapons charge and for violating an order of protection at a correctional facility—needed a pick-me-up in the form of handmade cards from her students. Here's an update: She quit over the summer, so the city wasn't able to punish her—so it just sent her a stern letter!
You can read the letter below, but let's revisit Dean's terrible idea: Dean had the students make cards for Groveland Correctional Facility inmate John Coccarelli, who had also been charged with possession (though not convicted) of child pornography. The prison intercepted the package of cards and figured out that they were from students at PS 143 in Queens. So the prison's superintendent called PS 143 Principal Sheila Gorski and sent her the package, which included two cards with students' addresses. During the Department of Education investigation, students revealed that Dean suggested they write personal details about themselves and claimed that the cards were meant for lonely people. One student called Dean "the best teacher because she put video[s]" on and did not give a lot "of homework."
When the principal confronted Dean, she admitted that Coccarelli was her friend but that he was just there for violating an order of protection. She also said she didn't have permission from the students' parents and, according to DOE investigators, she "asserted to Gorski that she felt it was not a school-related matter and reported that she mailed the package from a Post Office on Long Island," saying it "was a nice thing to do."
NYC Conflicts of Interest Board: Warning letter to Melissa Dean
City Room reports, "Dean, escaped harsher punishment in part because she resigned in June, said Carolyn Lisa Miller, the conflicts board’s director of enforcement. The Education Department had sought her termination and Ms. Dean’s resignation is irrevocable, the department said."