This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Granite School District probably had no idea what it stepped into last year when it fired a veteran English teacher for insubordination after she refused to grade portions of a districtwide test to measure student progress.
Nine months later, that Wasatch Junior High teacher, Ann Florence, not only is fighting her ouster through the appeals process, but she also has an army of educators and activists raising money for a lawsuit that would demand her reappointment.
In addition, former students have posted an online petition backing Florence.
The continuing battle is further evidence of the disconnect between front-line teachers, district administrators and legislators over numerous education issues including the issue of standardized tests.
Florence became the face of teacher discontent about "over-testing" by district officials to satisfy the thirst of legislators and some grass-roots groups demanding greater school accountability.
The Legislature also set up a grading system to identify succeeding and failing schools. Many educators have called the system unfair and arbitrary.
Florence refused to grade the written portion of the Acuity test on grounds it would be unethical to subjectively evaluate student performance on an exam by which teachers themselves would be judged.
After she was fired, Granite officials said her termination went beyond the test controversy and included other actions they say went against district policy. Her supporters countered those reasons were trumped up to justify her removal.
After Florence lost her appeal before a Granite human resources officer, she tried again and will have another hearing Feb. 4, this time before a human resources officer from Washington School District. That officer has ruled the hearing will be closed.
Some supporters, including former Salt Lake City School Superintendent M. Donald Thomas along with activists Boyer Jarvis and Ed Firmage, have formed a coalition to defend Florence, who has hired labor attorney Joe Hatch.
That alliance is sending letters with self-addressed envelopes to 4,500 teachers asking for donations to an account set up at JPMorgan Chase under the name "Utah Teacher Defense Fund."
Meanwhile, Florence plans to use her ordeal to lobby legislators to reduce state-mandated testing.
What comes around • I wrote recently about former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's latest cause: To sue the Republican and Democratic campaign committees and the Commission on Presidential Debates, alleging the two major parties formed a monopoly over control of presidential debates that shuts out participation by minority and third-party candidates.
He is teaming with Washington, D.C.-based attorney Bruce Fein in preparing the lawsuit, which seeks to replace the current system with a more equitable format.
Anderson first became interested in the cause when he was contacted by Salt Lake City-based advertising executive Ron Nielson, who formed the organization "Our America Initiative" that is raising funds to coordinate the effort to change the presidential debate format.
The irony: Ron Nielson, through his R.J. Nielson Associates, ran the successful congressional campaign of Republican Merrill Cook in 1996. The Democrat whom Cook, with Nielson's help, defeated was none other than Rocky Anderson.
Those interested in contributing or learning more about this new Rocky Anderson-Ron Nielson collaboration can access information at http://www.fairdebates.com.