A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

Rolling protests throughout the state of California emphasized the despair, anger, and will of the people.


March 4, 2010 was the Day of Action that brought together all those who have been affected by the $17 billion dollars in education funding cuts over the last two years.  College students, K-12 students, teachers, unions, and parents rallied from San Francisco to San Diego to tell the world it is wrong to cut education and spend billions on wars and prisons.

For L.A. teachers, it was a chance to express our angst at the lack of foresight of laying off teachers, when in the next few years, millions of baby boomer teachers will be retiring.  Poor planning has led to many districts being in a dismal financial situation, while others who planned well and had rainy day funds have been navigating the Great Recession, even if only barely.

Superintendent Cortines recently presented the 2010-2011 budget that included more cuts for LAUSD teachers, to the tune of 5,200 teaching positions.  Possible factors to mitigate these cuts include pay cuts for teachers, and furlough days that would result in the shortening of the school year.

Multiple subject teachers are once again, especially vulnerable to layoffs due to the proposed increase in elementary class sizes that will result in over-staffing in this category of teachers.  For L.A. Academy M.S., it will mean wiping out 50% of our 6th grade teachers, 16 teachers.  This is in addition to the 23 teachers we lost last year in the Reduction of Force.

Many assign blame to the union for maintaining the seniority system.  But seniority, while approved by the union, is actually determined by the state education code.  A change in the ed code would require Sacramento legislators to put forth a bill and have voters approve it.

In other words, if the union decided today to change the way teachers are laid-off, it would be years before the change would be implemented.  Too late to save our teachers now.
With eight days left before pink slips are issued, there is an atmosphere of tension and stress as or staff wonders who will be next to go.  Our students know that in addition to the layoffs, the CST exams are coming up and the threat of reconsitution or school takeover is a possibility should they not meet their target, leading to a possible 100% loss of the teachers they know and care for.

It is clear that people WITHOUT a background in education concluded that fear is a good way to motivate teachers and students into scoring higher on tests.  We will see if they are right when our scores are released in August 2010. 


Popular posts from this blog

FULBRIGHT: Countdown: Day 7

"There Are No Emergencies"