Leaving Finland

Lake Jyvasjarvi I have never lived anywhere for 5 months other than Jyvaskyla, Finland. As my Fulbright journey concludes, there is so much to still digest. It will take months, if not years, to truly assimilate all the learning. Before I left Southern California, I wrote about the what I would miss the most from home and what I  looked forward to experiencing in Finland. It is safe to say I met my goals. Top 7 Goals 1. Discussing Education Helsinki Workshop Through professional development programs, Fulbright Finland connected teachers with scholars and researchers, for the purpose of putting inquisitive minds together. The Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats seminar provided participants with fascinating research and presentations. 2. Nordic Model Bus station in Espoo What does an efficient and earnest country look like?  It looks like Finland. Yes, people pay higher taxes, but get so much in return. I for one appreciated the well-maintained ro

And So It Ends

Students created a farewell shirt for Natalie Umber

Tomorrow is the last day of school at Los Angeles Academy Middle School. It will be the final day of work as teachers for some 20 + outstanding, dedicated young professionals who have been crushed by the Los Angeles Unified School District, impotent Sacramento legislators, and let down by their union.

The students in South Central will bear the burdens of the mistakes made by those we have elected and entrusted with their care.

The last several weeks have been among the most stressful in the 20 years I have worked in this district. To see the hope, desperation, resignation, and disappointment in the eyes of these teachers has been almost too much to bear. To have to break the news to the children has led many adults on campus to reach their breaking point. Today, at our recognition ceremony, it was all Principal Borges could do to keep her composure as she said goodbye to the teachers she has come to admire so much.

Teachers are giving away their supplies and possessions to colleagues. Students are throwing farewell bashes for their teachers. 8th grade students held a reverse awards assembly and gave certificates to their teachers to thank them for their work. Some students created a special graffiti farewell shirt for Ms. Umber, and wrote personalized messages to her.

RIF'ed teachers are applying for jobs at the only places that are hiring: charter schools. Some are deciding if its worth it to stay on as subs, knowing that any day the "real teacher", the displaced employee, can come to claim their job. Where are these displaced employees? We don't know. Calls have been made, emails sent, but many are not returning calls. Of the 27 open positions we have, only 5 employees have reported for duty. Some who have been contacted stated they did not want to be assigned to tracks B and C because "they have a vacation to Europe already planned," they "want to work Z time at their current school," and they "have kids son vacation and want to be with them." Somehow, this just doesn't resonate with the students, teachers, and administrators at my South Central school.

In less than 48 hours, when the new school year starts, 22 positions will be manned by substitutes. This, while 20+ RIF'ed teachers, who WANT to be there, are discarded in the name of "right-sizing". Close to 800 students will start the school year with one or more substitute teachers. If this is what LAUSD calls "reform" then I shudder to see what "innovation" brings next.

Will the RIF'ed teachers be willing to sub in their own classrooms? Possibly. However, they can be bumped out of their position at any time if the displaced teachers report for duty. They will be earning sub pay, which means to earn year-round income they must work year-round with no vacation, and with no guarantee of continuous employment. This will be a tough call for them to make.

As for the rest of us, we are stunned, grieving, and feel betrayed by the leaders mentioned above. No one has called these teachers to give them updates, advice, or guidance. No one had the guts to tell them, "hey, it looks like its not going to happen for you. You should go look for a new job." Instead, the possibility of a recission was dangled in front of them to keep them hanging on, to strengthen the bargaining power of UTLA. The savvy ones refused to play this game and were quickly hired in other places. The ones that trusted and kept believing are now having to accept that only permanent teachers were protected in this year of bargaining.

And so it ends, another blow to public education in California, perhaps the final one, that the forgotten students of South Central will have to endure.

Martha Infante


  1. I was the student how came up with the idea of making the shirt. All of us put money in an envelope and me and two of my other friends took the shirt so that it could be spray painted. The next day we all signed it, and had a surprise goodbye party for the greatest teacher we ever had....Ms.Umber!!!!



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