Last week, during two full days of testimony in hearings open to the public, GHS band director John Yoon, the 23-year-veteran band teacher exercised his right to fight his termination from Greenwich Schools. He was accompanied by the Greenwich Education Association (GEA) president Carol Sutton, who sat calmly by his side and could be seen at times quietly knitting. Yoon was also accompanied by an employment attorney, Dan Young.
On day 1 GHS headmaster Dr. Winters testified. On day two, the just-retired Greenwich Schools Human Resources director Dr. Lichtenfeld testified.
Lichtenfeld portrayed an awkward contretemps between the Greenwich teachers union (GEA) and the local Connecticut Education Association (CEA) representative, who were supporting Mr. Yoon, and another CEA representative, explaining that the “Last Chance Agreement” pitted two CEA union employees against each other. He said other GHS department teachers were angry that Yoon was given a last chance in 2014 rather than being fired, “to the point that they sought their own representation from CEA.”
Lichtenfeld said an outside CEA representative contacted him, representing other members of the GHS music department, to contest the GEA and local CEA’s support for the Last Chance Agreement.
Lichtenfeld added that he didn’t want to get caught in an internal battle between the unions and that he supported the Last Chance Agreement.
In an email on Tuesday, Mr. Yoon said, “Not all of the members of the music department complained about the last chance agreement.” He further explained that, currently, “No one from the CEA or GEA has ever expressed reluctance or anything but support for me.”
Mr. Yoon explained in an email why he hired independent legal counsel when the union was fully prepared to represent him in his efforts to keep his job.
Yoon said that when he was deciding who he wanted to represent him, he met with two CEA attorneys who he described as “extremely supportive.”
“It was clear that they were dedicated to getting me reinstated and really wanted to represent me,” Yoon said of the union attorneys.
However, at the end of the day, Mr. Yoon decided to hire Mr. Young.
“Dan is a more experienced employment lawyer, he has represented many teachers in other situations, and he also has high school aged children, so I believe he understands and appreciates the challenges that school teachers face,” Yoon said in the email. “Because of the publicity surrounding my suspension and possible termination, I fear that, if I am not successful winning reinstatement, I may never be offered the opportunity to teach again. As a result of that fear, I decided that I needed to hire the absolute best lawyer that I could find, regardless of the cost to me and my family.”
“I am using my savings and borrowing money to pay for my legal expenses,” Yoon said. “Under the CEA’s policy that was shared with me, because I hired my own lawyer and didn’t use their appointed lawyer, I am responsible for paying my own legal fees and expenses.”