Review Category : Top Stories

High School French Teacher Doesn’t Speak French

Courtesy Nathaniel White(HOUSTON) — “Non, je ne parle pas Français,” is what one substitute high school teacher in Texas might say to his students — though he is supposed to be teaching them French language.

When Energy Institute High School in Houston, Texas parted ways with their staff French teacher in December, they didn’t have another teacher qualified to teach the language. They had to hire someone to run the class on short notice and the school district sent them a substitute who does not speak, let alone teach, French language.

The former teacher of the class, Jean Cius, said his students were doing well in French before he left the school. Although he doesn’t believe it’s the new teacher’s fault that he doesn’t know French, he doesn’t believe he’s a good fit for teaching the class.

“If you are a long-term sub, you have to be knowledgeable of the subject,” he said. “You can’t be a sub for longer than two or three months and not be knowledgeable.”

But the substitute now in charge of the class, Albert Moyer, defends his position saying he has to be flexible. In a personal blog post, Moyer added that because he is an associate teacher he is not required to be certified in the subject.

“My job is to be as qualified as I can in an emergency wherever I am placed,” he wrote in the post. “I have had numerous assignments in all subjects.”

Nathaniel White is a student in Moyer’s class and said he likes him as a teacher, but the class works on fill in the blank worksheets in order to learn the material.

White’s mother, Sharonda White, said she doesn’t blame Moyer, but her Nathaniel is not learning the foreign language like he should be. She believes the school should be doing more to help the situation.

“It’s not his fault that he’s there. The school should do a better job at finding someone who is qualified.”

Jason Spencer of Houston Independent School District (HISD)said the school has been trying to find a qualified instructor but there is a shallow pool of candidates.

“It can often become a difficult task to find certified foreign language teachers, in the middle of the academic school year, to fill the needs of the district. Effective French teachers are especially hard to come by,” officials from the HISD said in a statement. “The district continues its efforts to hire talented foreign language teachers to instruct HISD students. HISD strives to ensure all students have access to an education that will help ensure they are successful academically and ready to complete in a global econom

With one month left in the school year, Spencer says Moyer will still be in charge of the school’s French class unless a permanent replacement is found.

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Detroit Teacher Explains What’s at Stake Amid District ‘Sick Out’

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — Detroit teachers are taking to the streets instead of classrooms for the second day of a “sick out” rally in a fight for paychecks.

Kendra Lincourt, an art teacher who has worked at Detroit Public Schools for 17 years, participated in the rallies, both on Monday and Tuesday.

“People need to realize that teachers are not going to work without being paid,” Lincourt told ABC News Tuesday. “I love my job. I want to continue to do my job, but I’m not going to do it for free. I have a family I need to support.”

Lincourt said her husband is also a teacher but not with Detroit public schools.

“We’re not trying to be selfish by any means,” she said. “It’s our passion, but it’s also our job, it’s how we live. We’re not asking for anything that we don’t deserve.”

On Tuesday, 94 of 97 schools in the Detroit Public School district were closed, impacting 45,726 students, according to school officials.

A spokeswoman for the district said the three remaining schools had enough teachers report to work. The district closed schools where 40 percent or more of the teaching staff called in sick, the spokeswoman said.

Monday’s “sick out” also closed 94 schools, impacting 45,628 students. The sick out is ongoing “because we still don’t have assurance that we’re going to be paid,” Detroit Federation of Teachers interim President Ivy Bailey told ABC News Tuesday.

“We were hoping yesterday would be the last day,” Bailey said, adding that teachers were telling her they miss their students.

Lincourt said it’s unfortunate that the school closures are causing last-minute child care problems for parents.

“We do feel for the parents,” she said. “At our school we’re fortunate that we have a lot of parental support. They understand that nobody is going to work without being paid”

And as for her own three daughters, who attend the school where she teachers, they went along to the rallies, Lincourt said. While her children are missing class time, Lincourt said the rallies provided “amazing connections.” She said one daughter, a 4th-grader, likened marching down the middle of a Detroit road to her studies about Martin Luther King.

When the “sick out” began Monday, Bailey explained to ABC News the reason behind it. Because teachers do not get paid during the summer, some teachers are on 26 pay periods. “They take their salary and they pro-rate it throughout the year [with] additional pay periods in the summer, so they can get paid over the summer,” she said.

She explained that the state gave the district $48.7 million to get through the rest of the school year but that did not include money to cover summer payments.

“When we figured out what was going on and looked at the payments of those teachers, technically Thursday of last week is the last day that they’re actually being paid,” Bailey said.

“In theory, they’re working without pay,” she said. “There’s no guarantee — based on what the district has told us — that they will receive payment after June 30, which is not fair. No one should work for free.”

In Detroit, where the economy has been struggling for years, schools are currently under a state of financial emergency and are run by an emergency manager instead of a school board and superintendent.

“If you are an emergency manager and you’re supposed to be the person who came here to straighten out our finances, and now they’re worse than they ever were … I believe we have every right to be upset. And there is no accountability for what has gone on with these emergency mangers,” she said.

“The teachers feel, and I feel, that no one is listening to us,” Bailey said. “The teachers are not only fighting for themselves, but more importantly, they’re fighting for their students.”

Mechelle Doty, a school psychologist for the district, told ABC News Tuesday that staff members “would like nothing better than being able to serve the students. But we just want what’s fair.”

“Anyone in any work place … expects compensation,” she said. “We have bills, we have families, we have responsibilities just like anyone else who has a job. We’re just really asking for fairness and what’s due.”

Doty said she’s not sure if she’ll go back to school Wednesday.

“It’s a day-to-day approach,” she said. “We are showing what our concerns are and we’re waiting for a response. And we’re really waiting to see if the funding that is necessary for the education of the district, if that’s going to be approved.”

Tuesday also happens to be National Teacher Appreciation Day, a part of Teacher Appreciation Week. Bailey said the timing is a coincidence.

“I did tell teachers ‘Happy Appreciation Day,'” Bailey said. “It’s kind of ironic.”

Detroit Public Schools DPS Transition Manager Steven Rhodes did not immediately issue a statement on the second day of the “sick out,” but he said Monday, “I am on record as saying that I cannot in good conscience ask anyone to work without pay.”

“Nevertheless, it breaks my heart to think about the major impact that the closure of 94 of the district’s 97 schools is having on our students and their families,” Rhodes said Monday, also noting that “families were forced to try to find a way to unexpectedly care for their students” and “many parents may have been forced to take a day off from work without pay.” He also mentioned that some students rely on school for meals.

“Apart from the toll this is taking on our students and their families, of closing 94 schools, District funding will also be impacted — at a time when we can least afford it,” he said. “Today’s school closure action encouraged by the DFT may cost the District approximately $2 million in state aid. That amount of funding equates to the cost of hiring roughly 20 teachers. The loss of these funds also does nothing to help the district address the serious issues that we have all been working to address, including teacher/student ratios and smaller class sizes, as well as improving the quality of the learning environment in our schools.”

Rhodes said he “can make no guarantees, but it is clear that the Michigan Legislature understands the urgency of this situation and will act in a timely manner to ensure that operations of the school district continues uninterrupted.”

He said he will continue to work with Lansing policy makers to “help them understand how critical the passage of the legislation before them is not only to the future of Detroit Public Schools, but also to the future of the city of Detroit.”

“Without this legislation, Detroit Public Schools will not be able to operate after June 30, 2016,” Rhodes said.

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Connecticut Legislature Passes Gun Control Bill Aimed at Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HARTFORD, Conn.) — Victims of domestic violence in Connecticut will receive additional protections with the passing of a bill aimed at prohibiting those who are subject to a temporary restraining order from possessing firearms, thus eliminating a critical window of time during which a victim’s life could be at risk. The bill heads to the governor’s desk in the coming days for his signature before it becomes state law.

The bill passed in the Connecticut General Assembly — the House passing its version of the bill last week, the Senate approving it Monday — the latest action to strengthening gun laws following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Gov. Dannel Malloy, who introduced the bill in February this year, said the bill is vital for the safety of domestic violence victims.

“We have a moral obligation to work to prevent needless tragedy and to make this the law,” he said in a statement Monday. “Women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm. When an instance of domestic violence rises to the point that a temporary restraining order is needed, we must do everything we can to prevent tragedy. Now, Connecticut will take a commonsense step towards strengthening and enhancing our gun violence protection laws.”

Under current state law, only those with permanent restraining orders are prohibited from firearm possession. Those with temporary restraining orders must attend a hearing with a judge before a full restraining order can be granted — this process often taking several weeks during which a victim’s life could be at risk, according to supporters of the bill.

The new bill will require the subject of the temporary order to turn in their firearm to police within 24 hours. The bill also requires a hearing on a full order to take place within seven days to usher along the process in a timely fashion, instead of the two week time allotment.

It’s a bill federal lawmakers are also trying to mirror and propel across a national level. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who’s working on legislation of his own in the U.S. Senate, told ABC News that Congress needs to act, and fast.

“Congress must follow Connecticut’s lead and end its complicity with domestic violence gun deaths by passing national legislation prohibiting domestic abusers from having firearms. My measure would save lives by preventing domestic abusers across the country from purchasing or possessing guns,” Blumenthal said. “Abusers are often at the height of their rage after being served with a temporary restraining order, and this new Connecticut law removes deadly weapons from their hands before they can cause irreversible harm. The link between guns and domestic violence is a deadly one. We must act quickly. Lives are literally on the line.”

Connecticut’s other Democratic senator, Chris Murphy, a co-sponsor of Blumenthal’s bill, faults Congress for its inaction.

“I’m glad Connecticut is continuing to lead the nation in preventing dangerous people from buying guns. I see absolutely no reason why anyone would stand up and argue that a domestic abuser under a under a court-ordered temporary restraining order should be able to walk out of a store with a gun,” he said. “If Congress continues to fail to expand background checks and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers, more lives will be lost. And that will be on us.”

The state bill has earned applause from the White House and also former congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabby Giffords.

“I applaud Connecticut’s leaders who stood up for common sense and voted for this responsible bill that will make it harder for abusers to get their hands on guns,” she said in a statement posted online.

According to Giffords’ organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries. And more than than half of all murders of American women are committed with a gun, according to the group, which also noted that abused women are also five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm.

But critics of gun control, including the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, say the bill violates due process rights for gun owners. CCDL President Scott Wilson posted his own statement online saying the bill eliminates the protections affirmed under the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

“We feel it is important for the public to understand that individuals who may be served with an order of this type do not even have to be charged with any crime, let alone convicted of wrong-doing,” Wilson said. “It’s very unfortunate that proponents of this bill that hold office and have sworn to uphold our constitution are working hand in hand with groups that are specifically misleading the public.”

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Suspect Hijacks Bus, Striking and Killing Pedestrian in DC

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A suspect hijacked a Washington, D.C., bus Tuesday morning and hit and killed a pedestrian, the D.C. police department said.

Police say the suspect assaulted the bus driver and stole the bus before hitting a pedestrian in a gas station lot.

The suspect is in custody.

The bus operator suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to Metro Transit Police. No passengers were injured.

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NTSB Reveals Probable Cause of Fatal Metro Accident, Alarming Operational Errors

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A “disturbing” attitude towards safety contributed to the track fire that killed one passenger and injured 91 more in Washington, D.C.’s metro system in January 2015, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart said Tuesday.

Following an electrical arcing incident on the yellow line’s high-voltage third rail, hundreds of riders were trapped underground in a dark, smoky train for nearly an hour, many unable to pry open the doors.

As a voice on the loudspeaker urged passengers to “remain calm,” survivors say many were coughing, choking and crying.

Numerous issues — including an ineffectively deployed ventilation system and poor communication with first responders — intensified the situation, officials from the NTSB explained Tuesday.

A 61-year-old mother died of respiratory failure, and scores more suffered from smoke inhalation, authorities said.

”Safety is still not institutionalized as a core value at WMATA,” Hart said, referring to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The NTSB’s criticism didn’t stop with metro. Officials also lambasted the “uniquely dysfunctional” tri-state oversight committee, and noted that the DC Fire Department and EMS had not practiced a full-scale tunnel evacuation for five years before the fatal accident at L’Enfant Plaza.

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Illinois Mother of Two Critically Injured in Drive-by Shooting

iStock/Thinkstock(LAKE DELTON, Wis.) — A mother is in critical condition after a gunman shot her in the neck while she was in her car with her husband and two children in Wisconsin.

Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney called it “a random act.” The gunman, who was later shot by law enforcement, is in police custody.

The shooting happened Sunday afternoon on Interstate 90/94 as the victim, her husband and their two children were driving home to Illinois from the Wisconsin Dells area.

They were passing a Chevrolet Blazer when the Blazer driver rolled down his window and fired three rounds at their car, the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office said.

It was the second round that went into the passenger window and hit the victim’s neck. Meanwhile, the gunman — with his two brothers as passengers — kept driving. The Dane County Sheriff’s Office says another car was also struck by gunfire but the driver wasn’t injured.

Chief Deputy Jeff Spencer told ABC News that the mother, 44, was hospitalized in critical condition. Spencer did not know the ages of the children. The sheriff’s office said the man and the children were not injured. The mother’s identity has not been released by the sheriff’s office.

Witnesses called 911 and officers pursued the gunman’s car, deploying road spikes to stop it. The suspect then got out of the car and walked toward the officers armed with a revolver, the sheriff’s office said. After ignoring commands to stop, the suspect was shot by officers, according to police.

The sheriff’s office says the suspected gunman, a 22-year-old from West Allis, Wisconsin, is also the suspect in a murder at an apartment building in West Allis the morning of the drive-by shooting.

The gunman, whose identity was not released, is being treated at a local hospital and is in the custody of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

The gunman’s brothers are being held at the Dane County Jail, the sheriff’s office said.

The shooting remains under investigation. Anyone who saw the shooting is asked to call the Dane County tip line at 608-284-6900.

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FBI Searches Home of Reputed Mobster Suspected in Boston Art Heist

Google(BOSTON) — The search for missing art stolen more than two decades ago from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has taken FBI agents to six continents around the world. But the most active lead seems to be in the backyard of an aging mobster in a small town in Connecticut.

Boston FBI field office spokeswoman Kristen Setera confirmed to ABC News that the “FBI is conducting court-authorized activity at 69 Frances Drive in Manchester, [Connecticut], in connection with an ongoing federal investigation,” but declined to comment further.

It is the third time the FBI has executed search warrants in and around that particular ranch house, the home of Robert “Bobby the Cook” Gentile, who is currently serving a 2-and-a-half-year federal sentence on unrelated drug and gun charges that came with his 2015 arrest by the FBI.

Gentile, who pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges, has repeatedly denied any connection to the stolen art and once famously muttered in court that his involvement in the heist was “lies, lies, all lies.” His lawyer, Rome McGuigan, told ABC News that his client knows nothing.

“He laughed and he couldn’t believe they were, that they were at his house again, and he said, this is a quote, ‘They ain’t gonna find nuttin,'” McGuigan said.

Among the stolen pieces were three Rembrandts, including his only seascape, “Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” along with one of only 31 known works by Vermeer, “The Concert.”

In a court filing obtained by ABC News, McGuigan alleged that the government was using the drug and gun charges as a way to force his client to produce the Gardner Museum paintings. He also said that the government had used informants to prod him into “talking about the paintings.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham acknowledged in a separate court filing that the FBI “tasked” a mob informant “to go see Gentile and engage him in general conversation” in 2010. The informant was instructed to “pay particular attention to anything Gentile might say about the Gardner Museum theft, but not to initiate any conversation on that topic.”

According to Durham, Gentile failed a lie detector test administered by the FBI when asked questions including: “Did you know those paintings would be stolen before it happened?”; “Did you ever have any of those stolen paintings in your possession?”; and “Do know the current location of any of those paintings?”

Gentile answered no to each question but “the results of the polygraph,” the government claimed in the filing, established he “was not being truthful” about the 13 paintings stolen from the Gardner Museum in March 1990. The infamous heist remains unsolved.

Anthony Amore, the security director for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, referred all questions about Monday’s activities to the FBI. It remains unclear what was recovered, if anything, in Monday’s search.

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City in New York Declares State of Emergency Due to Contaminated Water

iStock/Thinkstock(NEWBURGH, N.Y.) — A State of Emergency was declared in a small town in the metropolitan area of New York Monday due to the discovery of contaminated water.

City officials in Newburgh — with a population of roughly 30,000, is located about 60 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River — detected elevated levels of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), a key ingredient found in Scotchgard and numerous stain repellents.

The New York State Department of Conservation and The Department of Health have recommended that steps be taken to reduce or eliminate the compound from the city’s water system, according to a statement released by City Manager Michael Ciaravino.

Officials are asking people to conserve usage while the city draws water from other local resources for the time being.

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Detroit School Teachers Plan to Continue ‘Sick Out’ for Second Day

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — Detroit Public School teachers are fighting for their paychecks by continuing a “sick out” that started Monday and closed over 90 of the 105 public schools in the city.

“The teachers feel, and I feel, that no one is listening to us when we try to explain what’s going on here. I feel like we’re being held hostage by our legislatures,” Detroit Federation of Teachers interim president Ivy Bailey told ABC News Monday. “The teachers are not only fighting for themselves, but more importantly, they’re fighting for their students.”

“We have teachers who are on 26 pay periods,” Bailey explained. “What happens is they take their salary and they pro-rate it throughout the year [with] additional pay periods in the summer, so they can get paid over the summer — because teachers do not get paid in the summer.”

She explained that the state gave the district $48.7 million to get through the rest of the school year but that did not include money to cover summer payments.

“When we figured out what was going on and looked at the payments of those teachers, technically Thursday of last week is the last day that they’re actually being paid,” Bailey said.

“In theory, they’re working without pay,” she said. “There’s no guarantee — based on what the district has told us — that they will receive payment after June 30, which is not fair. No one should work for free. And so rightfully so, we’re all upset about that.”

Bailey said when they asked if the money they received would include money for all employees who are on a 26 pay period, they were told “yes.”

She said this is not happening anywhere else in Michigan — just Detroit, where the economy has been struggling for years.

Detroit schools are currently under a state of financial emergency and are run by an emergency manager instead of a school board and superintendent.

“I’m hoping today will accomplish an awareness across the city of Detroit — what’s happening to our schools systems is an atrocity,” Bailey said. “If you are an emergency manager and you’re supposed to be the person who came here to straighten out our finances, and now they’re worse than they ever were … I believe we have every right to be upset. And there is no accountability for what has gone on with these emergency mangers.”

Detroit Public Schools did not immediately provide a comment on Monday, but Transition Manager Judge Steven Rhodes said in a statement Sunday evening that the planned “sick out” would be “counterproductive and detrimental.”

“It is unfortunate that the DFT [Detroit Federation of Teachers] has chosen to make a statement in this way,” Rhodes said.

“I am on record as saying that I cannot in good conscience ask anyone to work without pay. Wages that are owed to teachers should be paid. I understand the frustration and anger that our teachers feel,” Rhodes said. “I am, however, confident that the legislature will support the request that will guarantee that teachers will receive the pay that is owed to them. The DFT’s choice for a drastic call to action was not necessary.”

“I am confident that the Michigan Legislature understands the urgency of this situation and will act in a timely manner to ensure that operations of the school district continue uninterrupted,” he said, adding that he’s working with policy makers in Lansing “to move this legislation forward.”

“A district-wide sick out will be counterproductive and detrimental to the efforts of everyone working to help the District,” he said. Rhodes said he hopes to continue his “strong relationship” with the Detroit Federation of Teachers “so that jointly we can achieve our mutual goal of creating a New DPS under local control that we can be proud of.”

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