Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shout out to those "left behind"

Why does this man still have a job?! The Dallas school district is in a financial debacle right now. I know, given the current state of the nation's economy, this seems like an obvious statement. However, the district thought they were $24 million in debt, but it turns out they were $64 million in the hole. Back in June! Since then, they have managed to spend $19.5 million more bringing the total to almost $84 million. WHAT?! How does that happen? Oh, wait, I know, you are a ridiculously large school system.

For years I have chuckled when people discuss major companies, such as Enron, that have "cooked the books". I giggle because I feel like if people really want to see tweaking numbers to say what you want them to say, go to some public schools! Please do not get me wrong...there are a lot of great school districts in this country. Districts where the students are the priority, teachers are genuinely appreciated, and community is key. Hell, I am a product of one of these places. The vast number of “struggling” districts are in their situations because there are too many problems and not enough time. It is hard to reinvent the wheel and create change (there is your Obama salute, Eb) when the ENTIRE community is not on board. It is hard for everyone to catch the train when they are simply too busy to buy the ticket. I sympathize with these districts.

I "fought the good fight" in a classroom for years. I struggled to engage kids who worked nights to help pay rent. I bought baby gifts for teenagers that were pregnant too soon. I attended concerts, sporting events, graduations, plays, baptisms, and even a wedding to share in kids' joys with laughter and a high five. I went because so many of their parents could not go. I mediated between teachers/coaches/administrators and kids, fielded phone calls when they did not get into college, listened to countless family issues, attended a parents' funeral, and even gingerly hugged one who was in an abusive relationship before involving the police. I did it so they would know that someone, anyone, cared for them and how they turned out. I ate at gross restaurants and shopped at random, out of the way stores just so they would see a familiar face smiling back at them during their shift. I am not unusual. Teachers all over the country do this everyday. They do not do it to be recognized. They do not do it for a promotion, and they do not do it for the pay. They do it because they love children and what they will become in the future. They should be commended. They should not be fearful that their job will be cut tomorrow.

While teaching, I watched administrators come in late, leave early, mill about in hallways, and get promoted the next year. I witnessed questionable work ethics collect bonuses from high test scores because of the hard work of teachers. I listened to students, parents, and teachers wonder, "where is the [fill in the blank administrative title]". I heard upsetting, blanket statements come out of high-level personnel mouths about not only classroom teachers, but the kids too. Again, do not get me wrong...I heard great compliments about the students hard work both in and out of the classroom from some. I witnessed long hours of work from administrators that wanted nothing but the best for "their kids". There are good and bad administrators just as there are good and bad teachers, kids, and parents. My question is why do questionable people continue to collect six figure incomes?

Maybe Dallas could "restructure" for a year or two. What if all the administrators took pay cuts and made a standard teacher salary of roughly $47,000? Hmmm? Would they have to get a second job to pay their mortgage, make the dues for their own kid's little league this season, or fill up their car with gas? Oh, kind of like a lot of teachers. Hmmm?

It will be interested to see how they fix this issue. Like so many other problems in education, this one does not have a simple solution. One of the many reasons why this even happened is because districts set their budgets based on projected enrollment for the following year. This year, there were 23,000 kids that were not enrolled as of the first day of school. The superintendent, as well as the mayor, went door to door to get kids and send them to class. This really should not be necessary given the new grading policy in D town. That is a completely different issue.

I could honestly stand on this soapbox for hours. (Especially given the fact that I discovered that Miami schools are $88 million in debt) I just really want to salute those I left behind when I quit. In honor of the political atmosphere, I ask you American...Have you thanked a teacher today?


Columbia Lily said...

nice post, I like. I also like your new background. I didn't call tonight because it was very late when I got home...I'll call you this weekend.

Just say Julie said...

Amen! I especially like that we can still afford stuff like doughnuts and catered lunches during "leaderhsip" meetings, (not to mention the endless supply of t-shirts) but heaven forbid I ask for an extra dry erase marker!

Monica said...

Amen and Amen! DISD has been a disaster waiting to get worse for years. Too big. No accountability. It's a shame b/c there are some really great teachers down there and some great kids who need an education.