For a graduate student in a slight financial bind, books and tuition don’t come cheap. That’s when Craigslist came to the rescue for blond, heavily tattooed Melissa Petro, an art and writing major. You can sell just about anything on Craigslist, and from the privacy of her own home, claims Petro, she sold her body there.
By September, 2007, she’d found a more acceptable way to make a living: as an art and writing teacher at P.S. 70 in the Bronx.
Whatever possessed her to publicly “out” herself three years later is hard to determine, but she did exactly that, writing a piece in the Huffington Post to protest the fact that Craigslist was shutting down its “sex for sale” department.
Petro no longer teaches art at P.S. 70. But she hasn’t been fired. Her tenure makes that difficult to do, so last week, she found herself reassigned to administrative duties.
This does not sit well with New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg who, at a recent press conference, stated that New York City is looking into its “legal rights” concerning Petro’s pedagogical future. “We’re just not going to have this woman in front of a class,” said Bloomberg.
Grace Ventura, mother of a third-grade boy, agrees. “People like that should not be allowed to be anywhere near children,” she told the New York Post.
How hard would it be to permanently remove Petro from the classroom? It’s not impossible, but such an action could cost New York City as much as $250,000 and take over a year to accomplish. During this time, Petro would most likely remain on the payroll.
Some advocates of education reform question the entire concept of teacher tenure. B. Jason Brookes, of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, has stated that the protection of teachers’ jobs via tenure only results in a “greater dysfunction of our public education system.”
Former New York State Assemblywoman Debra Mazzarelli has long been opposed to teacher tenure. “Our tenure laws protect ineffective and unmotivated teachers and administrators,” she says. “Removing a tenured employee from his or her position is so difficult, expensive and time-consuming that for all intents it is impossible.”
A study by the University of Tennessee determined that, in classrooms run by poor teachers, student test scores suffer. The effect is long-lasting; the children do not catch up easily when placed later on with competent teachers. Tenure laws, however, allow the inadequate teachers to remain indefinitely on the job.
“Paying teachers and school administrators based on how well they do their job rather than how long they’ve had their job makes sense,” says Brooks. Unfortunately, if the tenure laws remain in place, people like Melissa Petro, admitted former prostitute turned elementary school teacher, could conceivably remain at the head of the class for life.
Frank Eltman, “Firing tenured teachers isn’t just difficult; it costs you,” USA Today. 6/30/2008.
Melissa Petro, “Thoughts From a Former Craig’s List Sex Worker,” The Hufington Post, Sept. 7, 2010.
“A tenure-happy hooker,” The New York Post, 09/29/2010.
“Unions Defend Bad Teachers’ Tenure,” The Waking Bear.
“Bronx teacher former prostitute,” UPI News Service, 09/27/2010.
Erin Einhorn and Rachel Monahan, “Mayor Bloomberg says he wants confessed hooker teacher Melissa Petro yanked from classroom,” NY Daily News.com.