By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
School district spokesman Alberto Carvalho describes Cooper as an administrator well liked by his superiors. "By all accounts [Cooper] is a competent, dedicated principal with a friendly but strict demeanor," says Carvalho.
Not everyone at Mays has had problems with the administration. Those who just do their jobs, as defined by administration, generally do okay. But not great. A former teacher who left the school because the administration wasn't supportive says one of the big problems was that some teachers were run ragged with extra, uncompensated work, while a chosen few close to Kaloostian and Cooper were rewarded. Some teachers were regularly chewed out in staff meetings. "To be a professional with a master's degree, for someone to yell at you like you are ten years old, is not something you should have to deal with," comments the former teacher.
Cooper doesn't agree that there has been high teacher turnover at the school, arguing that teachers move around in the system all the time. "Teachers have that ability," he contends. "Teachers get promoted. People leave. I don't try to second-guess them." (When New Times tried to get information on personnel turnover and how it compares to the system as a whole, a month later the school district responded that such public information would cost $269.05.)
Many of the current and former teachers contacted for this story refused to comment on the working atmosphere at Mays, either positively or negatively. Those who did, did so on the condition that their names not be used. Again, the garrulous Phillips does not hesitate to speculate. "They are so scared of that clique there they don't want to say anything. When they saw what happened to Bradley, that put a chokehold on everybody. They are scared to death." Certainly the employees who signed affidavits supporting Bradley in the bomb-threat case were not willing to discuss it. Parker, the security guard who identified the voice of the bomb-threat caller as that of Phillips, stiffened when asked about Charles Bradley. "Nope, no, no, I don't know nothing," he stuttered, shaking his head as if to dislodge an unpleasant memory. "I don't want to know nothing."
Edward Gooding, the band teacher who also signed an affidavit, nervously excused himself when contacted at home. "I have an appointment I have to get to," he said. "I'm sorry."
Charles Bradley's problems at Mays Middle began long before the bomb threat. When Cooper and Kaloostian came to Mays in the summer of 1997, Bradley was proctoring the in-school suspension program. The former principal had hired him in 1996 and evaluated his performance in 1997 as acceptable in all categories. But Bradley says he began running into problems with Cooper and Kaloostian almost immediately. Cooper abolished the indoor-suspension program and moved Bradley around, first as a security monitor, then as a teacher in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program. Then, inexplicably, Cooper reinstated the indoor-suspension program and put Bradley back in charge of it. But Bradley remembers clashing repeatedly with Kaloostian. "She wanted it run the way she wanted it run," he sighs. "From the very word go she was on my case."
The town criers of the school, the security monitors, warned Bradley that Cooper and Kaloostian were going to try to force him out of the school. "They came to me and said, “They going to get you,'" he recounts. Cooper made him a full-time math teacher beginning the next fall. Bradley's teaching certification is in math, but since he began teaching in the school system in 1989, he had served mostly as a substitute for other teachers, or as an instructor in the indoor-suspension program. The next school year, Bradley says the administrators were always calling him to the office, often for minor infractions that they handled more discretely with other employees.
But the general consensus among current and former teachers at the school is that Bradley needlessly caused some of his own problems by showing up late for faculty meetings and being sloppy with paperwork, things he had to know only fueled the fire. "I know he had his share of problems," one teacher remarks. "Some he created, and some the school created. The administration was not helping him. They were doing what they needed to do within the contract to get him out." Convinced he was being harassed, Bradley tried to get a transfer to another school. He tried filing a grievance against Cooper. Both attempts went nowhere. Instead Cooper and Kaloostian stepped up the pressure by putting him "on prescription," a process in which an administrator will observe a teacher's classroom and write up a list of fixes for any deficiencies he sees. If the administrator judges that significant improvement hasn't been made over a certain period of time, he can request dismissal for unsatisfactory performance.
Bradley also wasn't winning any popularity contests among his colleagues at the school. He admits he had a reputation as a womanizer, which he earned when he became attracted to another teacher at the school who complained to administration that he was calling her at home. Bradley could be "an arrogant type of a guy, a jerk," observes Phillips, one of the traits that made other employees think maybe he deserved some of what he got. "A lot of things happened to him that he caused on his own by not complying with what they wanted him to do."