NEW PROVIDENCE – Students of Zachary Cohane, science teacher at the high school, showed up at Thursday's Board of Education (BOE) meeting to speak up in support of their favorite teacher, whose job is on the chopping block.
The students’ comments preceded a Donaldson Hearing. Cohane, a second-year science teacher, had requested an open hearing on his own case. He read a statement detailing his qualifications and dedication to his students. During his teaching career his goal has been “to make positive impact” on the student body. He did not want to be “just another teacher but to know students outside the school”.
He told the board that his students had succeeded in his class and shown readiness for the AP classes the following year. He had stepped up and volunteered at the high school programs that lacked leadership.
Despite having received favorable reviews, his employment is now at stake as the district has posted his position on the vacancy list. He questioned the rationale behind the administration’s decision. He said he suspects that other reasons, not his teaching skills, have affected the administration’s recommendation to terminate his employment.
Maryanne Rodriguez representing the Teachers’ Union (NJEA) said that Cohane’s students found out that he may not be coming back next year because his position appeared on the open positions list. Cohane did not ask them to speak for him, Rodriguez said. She also pointed out inconsistencies in the review process. The review process had found Cohane “to be an effective teacher” yet he was placed “under the cap”.
Approximately 10 students took turns to plead on behalf of Cohane while many others applauded each statement made. “He is the best teacher I ever had by far,” said David Adams. Others said that they learned more in Cohane’s chemistry class that in any other class they had taken. Students said they always look forward to Cohane’s class. “He makes learning enjoyable” and “he extends learning beyond the classroom," they said.
Another student said that Cohane has always been available for extra help – be it before or after school or during lunch and study hall. “His unique teaching style makes learning fun”, she concluded.
One student told the board how much Cohane truly cares about his students. “It would be shame to let him go”, students said and pleaded the board “to take time to review the case”.
After the hearing none of the board members commented on the case; however, Board Member Rob Dinerman complemented the students who had the courage to speak up at a public meeting.
The board discussed the case at a closed meeting. According to Rodriguez the district has to give Cohane a written answer within three days of the hearing. If the board decides to let him go they do not have to give him an explanation since he is a non-tenured teacher.