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Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

April 30, 2016

hairspray

I attended the last showing of Verdugo Hills High’s wonderful production of Hairspray tonight,  and in attendance was Dr. Trimis, the VHHS former principal who was kicked to the curb about a month ago, much to the dismay of parents and students, but from what I hear, not to the dismay of teachers- but I am not defending the teachers in this case.  A union rep tried repeatedly to convince me that there were valid, but confidential reasons why Dr. Trimis was removed and banished to the Dark Tower at Beaudry to work in the Arts Education Branch.

But something just rings false about all the innuendo used to try to persuade me that Trimis was a horrible principal. That’s not the impression of the parents, students or some of the staff.  It’s also not what my gut is telling me.  VHHS is an ESBM school- School Based Management- something of a dying breed in the district   I think giving staff control of a school can be positive but I have also seen the less positive side of this type of governance.

After going through the reconstitution of Fremont and having to apply  at other LAUSD schools, I was subjected to condescending age discriminating comments like “We don’t use dittos here.”  “Oh, is there something about me that leads you to believe I would use dittos?”  The comment about “dittos” was from a twenty -something teacher.    I found that teachers want to hire other teachers who are most like themselves instead of hiring someone who might bring something different to the staff.  Younger teachers also tend to want to hire younger teachers but they often forget- they to will someday be veteran teachers.       I also witnessed top-notch teachers forced out during the dark years of the Deasy regime.   I’ve seen teachers not support other teachers and  others who behave like corporate lackeys, so I am less inclined to automatically believe everything I hear from other teachers or my union.  I’m far less gullible and more discerning than I was before Fremont’s reconstitution, restructuring – whatever R word is in vogue for destroying a school.

Principals don’t often have a clear understanding of all the issues teachers deal with in the classroom but that also is true in the reverse- teachers don’t often have an appreciation for the politics,  mandates, staffing and budgeting issues principals have to deal with.  I was glad to see Dr. Trimis in attendance even though he was supposedly banned. Below is part of the text of a letter sent to Michelle King by a parent dismayed at the banning of Dr. Trimis from school events.  I’ve blocked out any identifying parent or student information.

 

THIS FROM ____________(A VHHS parent):

I was informed today that Dr. Edward Trimis is being banned from attending any school events at Verdugo Hills High School such as musical, concerts, awards banquets, graduation. I sent the following letter to the Superintendent of the LAUSD: April 27, 2016

Michelle.King@LAUSD.Net

Dear Ms. King,

My name is ________. I have __________ enrolled at Verdugo Hills High School. They are both seniors and have attended Verdugo since their freshmen year. My daughter _________ is the Deputy Colonel for the LAUSD JROTC and also serves as an alternate student board member for the LAUSD. My daughter __________is highly involved with many of the arts programs at Verdugo.

For the past 4 years, we have enjoyed getting to know Dr. Edward Trimis as he was the principal at Verdugo when they enrolled and he has been integral to their positive experiences in academics, the arts and student leadership. We were very saddened and somewhat enraged when Dr. Trimis was removed from his position at Verdugo. Dr. Trimis had become like family to us, and the thought that we would be missing him and everything he did for Verdugo so close to the end of senior year was nearly unbearable.

Considering this close relationship with Dr. Trimis, our family of course has extended invitations to Dr. Trimis to attend the school events that my daughters are part of and have always enjoyed the presence of Dr. Trimis at in the past. For example, _______ has the stage production and spring musical of “Hairspray” this Saturday. Dr. Trimis has attended all her performances in the past. _________ has the Awards Banquet/Ceremony for the JROTC coming up on May 3. Dr. Ttimis has always attended these ceremonies and had kind words to say to my daughter and the JROTC program at Verdugo. _______ has Spring Concert coming up. Trimis has always been there to encourage, support and praise her and the entire team. Senior Awards and Graduation is coming up. The thought of Dr. Trimis not being there is extremely unfortunate and quite frankly a travesty.

Dr. Trimis’ indefatigable efforts to attend all Verdugo Hills events and to document them on social media to share with the entire student body has been a mainstay in developing school spirit, pride and success. We are all missing him and his uniquely remarkable dedication to students and the school. Make no mistake, my girls are not the only ones feeling this devastating loss. Hundreds of students and parents are beside themselves with grief and angst.

The reason I am addressing these issues with you today is that upon the extension of invitation to Dr. Trimis for these events, I have been informed that the “local superintendent” has blocked Dr. Trimis from attending any events at Verdugo Hills High School.

I will not inquire or pry into the reasons the local superintendent has taken this stance, but I can tell you from a legal standpoint that it is certainly challengeable and a violation of Dr. Trimis basic human rights as a citizen of the United States.

Constitutional provisions provide protection to teachers and school staff at public schools that are generally not available to teachers at private schools. Since public schools are state entities, constitutional restrictions on state action limit some actions that public schools may take with respect to teachers or other employees. One of those rights, that is constitutional in nature, is the freedom of expression and association provided by the First Amendment.

If Dr. Trimis were a family member to me and I invited him to my daughter’s school events, what authority does the LAUSD have to prevent Dr. Trimis from attending the events or to alienate him from the family?

Similarly, if Dr. Trimis is a close family friend, what authority does the LAUSD have to deprive all of us from having his company and association at these momentous occasions?

I implore you to think heavily on these issues which not only violate Dr. Trimis’ rights, but they violate the rights of my family and other families who are a part of Verdugo Hills High School. Any barring of Dr. Trimis from freely associating with us at school events should be rescinded immediately or LAUSD could face a barrage of litigation within the next 10 days.

I hope you will consider this plea and set right this errant course the “local superintendent” and the LAUSD find themselves on.

Sincerely,

________________________________________________________________

Generally speaking, both the city and the LAUSD constantly underestimate Sunland-Tujunga.  We are one of the most persistent and active communities when it comes to civic and school affairs.  I guess this parent got through to Superintendent King because Dr. Trimis was in attendance tonight in the front row and surrounded by students and parents.  It was as it should be.

UPDATE: Apparently the letter worked.  I saw on a community website that Dr. Trimis would be allowed to attend VHHS events.   This means that obviously whatever the reasons for his removal, they could not have been as dire as what the UTLA union rep led me to believe, otherwise Dr. Trimis would not have been allowed back on campus.

 

 

Perspectives

April 29, 2016

It’s great to have someone in your corner when you are a teacher.  Today, that turned out to be a great resource specialist, Mr. Dixon, who comes once a week to our school to service the special ed population and he does a wonderful job. On the surface he seems like a cool hipster but he is oh so much sharper than the personnel the district usually put in the resource positions.   He usually observes one of my classes a week to see how his student are doing.  He taught math last year during summer school and so knows many of our students.   Today, it was Expo Comp and the topic was juvenile justice.  We were creating semantic maps for the topics Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice with categories like “causes” and “felonies” for the Juvenile Crime map.

At first,  everything went smoothly until a student mentioned “teachers” and “teachers who don’t care” as a cause of juvenile crime.  The kids all started piling on.  Mr. Dixon came to the rescue reminding one student, Henry, that he came late every day to his summer school class and didn’t complete work.   He laid into the students about how they behave in class and called them out for being rude and using their cell phones.   I think Mr. Dixon has a film career ahead of him as an actual real hero teacher as opposed to the faux ones portrayed in Stand and Deliver and The Freedom Writers.    I have a vivid memory of a university credential teacher with a stick up her ass who admonished us teachers-in -training to never watch the move Teachers with Nick Nolte because it showed teachers in an unfavorable light.  It actually showed teachers in a realistic light and I had already seen it and loved it.    My favorite scene was when Alex Jurel, played by Nolte took one of  his students  to get an abortion.  She had gotten pregnant by the gym teacher.   If you haven’t seen in it’s a must see film.

My perspective was also altered when I found out my sister received an eviction notice. Although she finally found employment, it is a low -wage job.   Her field is rife with age discrimination, something this unionized teacher doesn’t have to deal with as much, although I did suffer a brush with it after the reconstitution of Fremont.   It is tough for anyone over 50 to get reemployed in art directing, production or graphic design. She does all three.  I suspect she also needs some serious career coaching but it is painful to see her fall so far. The recession isn’t over for everyone. What makes it worse was that her apartment rent is reasonable and her place is located in a safe area.    I realized that despite minor issues at work,  I am incredibly lucky to be a public school teacher in California.    If I was unlucky enough to be teaching in Wisconsin, Chicago or North Carolina, I might be suffering a similar fate.

I realized after today’s encounter with my students who were so ready to blame teachers for all of their problems, that they have probably internalized much of the anti-teacher messaging of the last twenty years. None were ready to look at their own habits, which include ditching, disrespect and not completing work as the source of their issues.  An inability to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses will be harmful to their futures but I also believe their reactions are due to immaturity and the sense of entitlement they get from failing every class in middle school and still being able to move on to high school where they finally hit the wall at the end of 9th grade. Then, they come to us.  Most are honestly great kids who come for a variety of reasons, not necessarily poor grades. But my 3rd period is full of immature boys who think they should be able to play on their cell phones and talk over the teacher and their classmates.  The main perpetrators are those who didn’t complete the last major writing assignment. These were the ones who complained the most about “teachers who don’t care.”   I suspect their perspectives won’t change much when they get their grades. “Miss, why’d  you fail me?”  “I didn’t fail you. You earned that grade.”

Update: I worked Saturday school today and a chronically disruptive student came into my classroom with the principal  to complain about his grade.  He hadn’t completed the major writing assignment in Expo Comp and tried to lay the blame on me.  “How could I complete it when you were always moving me?” Absent but implicit in his question was why he had to be moved constantly which was due to chronic off -task and disruptive behavior.   I pointed out that many students who had low English skills worked their tails off to complete the work and struggled but ultimately prevailed.   The principal then turned to him and asked if he had enough time to compete the work. “Yes,” he replied.  That was the end of the conversation.   The Deasy legacy and the War on Teachers has done much to create this sense of entitlement among students.   The student’s first thought was to blame me and not his absences  and laziness.   If I was at a regular school the administrators would  likely  try to blame me which is why areas like Options, Magnet and Home School are really the secret to success if you want to survive as a teacher in LAUSD.

 

Good Vibrations

April 26, 2016

My students are fantastic and have kept me focused on my real priorities.   Now that my coworkers have figured out I have disengaged from any interaction with them and I have posted the  LAUSD anti-bullying memo on my door, they are leaving me alone.  These past two days have been magical teaching days.  The students are calm and into the lessons. maybe because they see land- June 10th- on the horizon.

My juvenile justice unit has promoted much discussion in class and a lesson on Hitler’s mass murders hit home in an uncomfortable way.  My 4th period, which is reading The Man in the High Castle and watching the Amazon Prime series read an intro to our lesson yesterday.  It discussed the publication of a 1920 book by two German “intellectuals” titled The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Human Value.   I then posed the question,”What kind of life has no human value?”  One student replied that there was no life that didn’t have any value but within  5 seconds, someone else spoke up. “Murderers.”  Another student chimed in: “Rapists.”  Soon they were falling all over each other to add to the list.  Within 60 seconds the list had grown to about 10.  At first, it included the type of people that most people think should be locked away but then the discussion took an odd turn.  “Corrupt journalists” was mentioned by a student  whose family are French Jews  and who had ancestors who were victims of Hitler.  I pointed out that one man’s corrupt journalist was another man’s investigative reporter.    Another student mentioned gang members and more students participated: “Murderous parents.” “Extreme racists.” “Dictators.” “Crooked politicians.”

I asked them if they now understood how the Holocaust happened and whether they would be willing to protect any of the above groups.  I also pointed out that the book by the so-called “intellectuals” was published a full 13 years before Hitler took power and that many Germans in the targeted groups had a false sense of security. After all, Berlin was a liberal and cosmopolitan city.  Who could imagine what would become of it just  a few short years later.   I impressed upon them that when someone says what they will do to a targeted group. you best believe them and that includes Donald Trump, who some write off as a buffoon.  Yet, he has endorsed everything from wall building to murder.  He’s stating it- out loud.  I warned my students that anyone willing to say it out loud is willing to carry it out.

My 2nd period is reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of  a Boy Solder by Ishmael Beah who survived several years as a child soldier in Sierra Leone.    We are at the part where Beah and some fellow child soldiers are rescued by UNICEF and have to try to readjust to lives as civilians.   I posed the question for my students’ journals,”Describe a time in your life when you felt like you had no control”    It is for their notebook checks but one student insisted I read his.  In his journal, he stated he had  a stepfather when he was little who was cruel and never let him go outside or play.    One of my coworkers says she doesn’t do “feelings” or “feelings lessons,” yet they are an integral outlet for students to make connections and let out their emotions in a safe way.   I know it’s not the LAUSD way which is to ask students to compare text structure and language and other such detached modes of analysis.  I’m really glad I don’t have to do such lessons. I’m feeling the good vibrations today.  This is the best teaching I’ve done since Fremont.

 

 

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

April 22, 2016

My work situation has a split personality.  I love the kids but my coworkers turn into bigger control freaks every day.  The teacher across the hall, “Uptight Boy,” adds new signs every day to his classroom door and the area surrounding it.   “No eating in this area.”  “No IPads can be taken from this room,”  because 1 IPAD has disappeared, hardly an earthshaking emergency due to the trackers on each one.  So now my students can no longer use IPADS.   (How convenient that  now only his students will have access to IPADS.)  And my favorite:  “Intervention/ Night School from 3:30-7:30,” which is a little dig at me for making my hours 3- 7. Interestingly,  Uptight Boy left 30 minutes early today from the regular school day. I doubt he took 30 minutes off  of his time.  Currently, there are about 5 signs on his door, some with multiple copies.  On my door is one document: the anti-bullying memo and form- meant for the adults just as much as the kids.

Since our small school moved onto a large campus, control-freak behavior seems to be the order of the day.  I received an email from the coordinator that all teachers will meet for 30 minutes before our regular  meetings on Friday “because it was agreed to  by other teachers at the last meeting,” except that I wasn’t there.   Of course that can’t be kept binding because we are not a pilot school and we aren’t an ESBM school so I don’t plan to comply.   I already have had my prep time cut in about half.   Then there is the math teacher who bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Evil and is obsessed with “holding students accountable.” “Our students have to know that they can’t do whatever they want whenever they want to,”  Dr. Evil declared at a meeting today for about the fiftieth time.  He wants teachers to be in on a New Student meeting next week so “students can know what the expectations are.”  

For the most part, our students are not typical continuation school students.  They come from places like VAPA, Downtown Business Magnet and Miguel Contreras. Some come from Belmont or Roybal.   It usually takes them one to two days to realize we have a highly academic and personalized instructional approach.   Hitting them over the head with “expectations” I have found is usually unnecessary.  The only thing I do have to work with the kids on is  our policy of keeping them after school (after 1 pm) if they were absent the day before or didn’t have time to complete all their work that day. I don’t make it punitive sounding and most comply.  So far, it has worked well.     I guess after 14 year of teaching of making mistakes -being too lax or too heavy -handed- I have found my rhythm.    It helps that this particular type of kid that I teach is a good match for my teaching abilities.

If  classes are trustworthy, they get a 5 minute break in the middle of class to get out their phones or relax- something that has sent some of my coworkers into a state of apoplexy.   However, I have discovered that the class where I can take this approach responds in kind by staying after school at a higher rate.   My 3rd period, which contains a number of kids who can’t stay on task, waste work time or who constantly ask to go to the bathroom get no bathroom passes or breaks.   That’s the way it is.  It is difficult for me to take  a one -size fits all approach to all of my students.

My anxiety – prone colleague is one of the few real human beings of the bunch. I admire him greatly and love talking to him. Sometimes he goes on talking jags that last 15 minutes but he is genuine and really likes the kids.  I suspect he feels about rules the way I do- you use them when they are needed.   We had a nice conversation about Bernie Sanders in the hallway the other day. He is sad like I am that Bernie lost New York.   I really like my colleague, Mr. O.

I’ll be working summer school and our night school intervention program is back for next year which means I will be able to continue to save money.  My goal is to save over 20,000 dollars by June 2017. Then I’ll check the lay of the land and look at rural Northern California near the Oregon border for jobs.   I’ll probably need to save more than 20,000 bucks for a move that big.     More like 30,000 bucks.  But it will be time by then to move on.

I have many benefits at my school but money, as they say, isn’t everything.   Whenever Dr. Evil or Uptight Boy pontificate at a meeting, I think about Mat Taylor sauntering down the halls of Fremont.  I think about Mr. Olynyk in his toga and bare feet doing a lesson on Ancient Greece.  I think about Mickey Thibeault helping the kids create the school newspaper at Fremont.  I’ll remember when Sarah Knopp had a famous author in her room.   I’ll think about Mr. Le, who always had fun ways to motivate his classes. I’ll remember the great Haikus my 2nd period created in response to the book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.   I’ll reread “What is Education,” by Herb Niebergall which I have posted on my wall near my desk.   And I’ll try to remember to be more like all of them.

 

 

I Used to Have Colleagues, Now I Have Coworkers

April 16, 2016

It’s is somewhat unfortunate that at the school where I work,  I can actually teach like never before but have petty, backstabbing coworkers to deal with.

I know, I know I can’t expect a perfect work environment but can’t I expect to not be talked down to in  a teacher meeting and to not have my coworkers question the hours I work in the night program?   I originally worked at a large year round school with a huge, close knit staff- 203 teachers to be exact. My Social Studies department had four times as many teachers as my current small school.  The staff used to regularly go out to El Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant in Huntington Park.    So it is tough to deal with coworkers- I don’t consider most of them colleagues – who I can’t trust and who don’t understand that they are big fish in a small pond and behave like middle school girls bullying a classmate on the playground.

The problem started, as a post below (“Spiders and Snakes” ) detailed when I quickly filled out a check out sheet for a student signing out of our school.    One of my coworkers become incensed that I had given the student a  higher grade than he believed she deserved.   Ever since then the targeting began.  It didn’t surprise me because in the history of the school, staff members have been targeted and forced out, usually by one or two staff members who didn’t feel the hapless victims were up to snuff.

Soon I found myself being questioned about the hours I worked in night school.  Often students come early and I work with them from 3-7, putting in 4 hours.  Technically night school is from 3:30- 7:30 thus angering two coworkers who didn’t get that I was often working from 3-7 and who also understand all the free hours I put in adjusting the curriculum.   I have anywhere from 15-18 kids I am helping continuously for four hours.  This is a pen and paper curriculum while “Uptight Boy” sits across the hall with 3 or 4 students on contracts.  “Uptight Boy”threw a fit.  Now students will not be allowed to start early and will have to start at 3:30 even if they get there at 3 to satisfy my vengeful coworker.    I will still leave at 7, even though I could stay until 7:30 but take 30 minutes less pay which is fine with me.

If this wasn’t enough I was ridiculed during a teacher meeting  – one of the endless ones we have about “holding students accountable.”   The meeting centered on cell phones and eating between classes.  I shared that while cell phones are usually not allowed in my class, classes that are particularly trustworthy are given a break and allowed to take their cell phones out for 2 minutes before resuming our lesson.  You would have though the world was coming to an end. “Well,” one of the teachers said sarcastically, “I don’t want  students coming back to me saying ‘The other teacher lets me use my phone.”  Really?  You can’t handle a simple classroom management issue that comes up in virtually ever school?

Here’s what I do when a student says to me, “But Mr. X lets me ____________ (fill in the blank: use my phone, eat chips in class, etc)   My response is always, “But what’s the rule in THIS class?”  If they continue to argue I simply calmly repeat the phrase until they tell me the rule in my class.   Problem solved.  I taught at a large three track school with over 200 teachers, all of whom had separate rules. If you can’t handle your business in the classroom, that’s on you.   For many reasons, teachers don’t need to have the same rules.  “Uptight Boy” chimed in: “Well that could be dangerous. What if your student texts my student and the phone vibrates in their pocket in my class?”   Really now,  I don’t let students keep phones in their pockets. They are kept in a backpack or purse. Another problem solved.  The hyperbole amused me.   I wonder why at Fremont, we didn’t have such inane conversations.     I wonder why at Fremont, teachers didn’t turn on each other. I know. Because in such a high -stress pressure cooker we realized supporting each other and honoring individual teaching styles were by far better strategies than one -upmanship.  At that point in the meeting, I got up and walked out.   If you can’t handle your own business in the classroom without insisting that all teachers maintain the same rules, you have no business teaching.  The Post Office is hiring if you want a rules -based, lock step job.

This post is dedicated to my former Fremont colleagues who would run circles around most  of my coworkers.  How I miss teaching with you.

 

 

Cold Comfort

April 14, 2016

The Vergara decision was overturned today, which was not unexpected.  Virtually every legal expert said it would be.  Here is a letter I wrote to the LA School Report, the biased blog of the corporate reformers.

 

 

Spiders and Snakes

April 10, 2016

It’s been months since I have posted but I had such a weird and crappy week I thought it was time to start writing, especially since I can’t sleep.   The title doesn’t just reference that old Jim Stafford song from 1974, it refers to various “colleagues” – and I use that term loosely -because two bear little resemblance to my colleagues at Fremont or my last options school.   It also refers to the slate of Neighborhood Council candidates called “Moving Sunland -Tujunga Foward,” led by one Arnie Abramyan, a shady local businessman arrested two days before the election on drugs and weapons charges.  Shockingly, Krystee Clark the other presidential candidate won by only 8 votes.  Scary stuff.  Fortunately, most of the slate was put to rest and only one of their candidates- for Secretary -won.

Then there is the increase in drug and gang activity in Finn Park, which has locals up in arms.   I took some pictures of some of the activity today and found my car quickly surrounded by knuckleheads. I didn’t call the police, but someone did and they stuck around for about an hour. These kids certainly weren’t Verdugo High kids.       I also had to contend with a student who had plagiarized  an assignment who essentially called me a liar in his IEP meeting on Friday.   He put on an Oscar -worthy performance but in the end,  I didn’t care. I stopped trying to make my point and let him rant.   I would have loved to have gone home after that but had to sit through a three hour PD on a new CSI type program the district has.  It’s actually good stuff but not on  a Friday from 2 to 5 pm.  To top off the week, one of my students who had applied for a Princeton Summer Journalism Program was first emailed and told, “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted into the second round.”  An hour later he received an email informing him that the first email was a mistake. You’d think Princeton would have its shit together.  Then there is  my sister, who is unable to find work, being over 50 in a field that values youth. She is three months behind on rent.   I and my brother have helped  her out but  I think the best way I can help her out is to save money through summer school and rent a bigger place so there is room for her.

My little options school has its definite advantages- academic freedom, fewer meetings than regular schools,  and a lot of space since we  just moved onto a comprehensive high school campus.   Our students are generally well behaved, if absent frequently, and we get a ton of extra Z time hours thrown our way through night school, Saturday school and summer school.    However,  pettiness and  gossip are the trade off for having the easy life and more money,  and I am not sure whether it is worth it any longer.  It’s soul crushing to see colleagues act like middle -school bullies so I close my door and don’t engage them in any conversation which is the opposite of my previous experience in LAUSD.

Four days ago a student who stopped coming to school brought me  a check out form.  She had an IEP and a crazy parent who was the source of her school attendance issues. For the time she was in my class, she participated with insightful comments and always completed her work.   Since the check- out form is essentially meaningless – she has to start over at another school- I gave her a D, S, S to acknowledge some positive contribution to my class.  I normally wouldn’t do that, but then this wasn’t a normal situation.   She took the form to my colleague across the hall, “Mr. Uptight Boy,” who stormed out of this room to confront me in  the hall.  “How can you give her this grade?” he huffed.”She’s been gone for 2 months!”   I explained that the form is meaningless and is not her semester grade, just  a rough estimate for the receiving school.  “That’s insane, that doesn’t even make sense!” he continued his rant.   Now I have to say in 14 years of filling out these check outs, I haven’t bothered to closely examine what  grades other teachers give the departing students. I fill out my section and give it back to the student.   I definitely wouldn’t think of confronting a colleague publicly in the hallway.    Then there is a coordinator who loves to rag on teachers who have fallen out of favor, the latest being a very nice but anxiety -prone colleague.     I’m pretty much over it but have to admit I would love a colleague I could relate to and talk to like I had  at Fremont and the last school I worked at.

I love Sunland-Tujunga but often refer to it as Twin Peaks meets the Beverly Hillbillies with some organized Armenian gang activity mixed in.  At least the meth labs have moved southeast to Sun Valley.  We have a lame duck city councilman and a lame-ass Armenian Power gang that steals from the poor and gives to the rich by installing credit card sliders at dollar stores. We have some of the most scenic vistas and miles of Angeles Forest roads and trails anyone could want which is why I love it so much.   We have an intensely involved community that paid 18,000 bucks of its own money to clean up the Tujunga Wash and Watershed.   Yet we struggle to maintain control of this semi -rural jewel and the recent Neighborhood Council election was just too close a call. To think that a criminal thug could have been president of the Council is unthinkable yet came within 8 votes of happening. Of course Abramyan who runs several shady businesses in town declared the drug and weapons charges “ridiculous.”  And yet the LAPD, which doesn’t give our little area of the city much attention due to low staffing, saw fit to raid his business and home, something we rarely see up here.   Abramyan declared the arrest, “a personal attack on me, ” which is not likely given the general disinterest by the Foothill Division to police Sunland-Tujunga.   Whew. We dodged that snake by eight measly votes.

Then there is the park next door which while generally improved,  lately has backslid.  The LAPD does stop by twice a day but tagging and knuckleheads are rampant, driving out parents with little kids that the play area is designed for. I log onto 311 daily to report tagging and other offenses as do other residents but some of the dropouts in the park have gotten aggressive.   Yet positive events are occurring.   A city group called Recology will revitalize our community garden and orchard which sit behind the house I rent.    I love the fact that I can walk to the park and the local library and that Firestation 74 is one block away.   I am bracing for April 20th, Hitler’s birthday. Last year, taggers filled the park with swastikas but two community members came and cleaned them off before 8 am.   The miracle of Facebook!     But just two days ago, neighbor high on meth was beating his sister with a flashlight in  Finn Park.  She was screaming at me, “Call the police, call the police,” which I did and it took them a full 10 minutes to arrive.  Fortunately, or so I thought, three men came to assist her only to go through her assailant’s pockets looking for money.   The whole situation was surreal.

I didn’t appreciate being ambushed in an IEP meeting on Friday by a kid who constantly copies other’s work.  The special ed coordinator said to the student, “I am so proud of how you handled that.”    “You mean lying,” I thought to myself.   It was all I could do to keep from rolling my eyes.  This will simply feed into the drama queen behavior this student exhibits.  Yet, the end of the year is in sight.  Our school will offer summer session this year and I know I should  just work it but I am not sure I want to.  But my 10 year old car may force me to so I can at least buy a reliable set of wheels. My sister’s terrible employment situation may also force me to keep working. One thing I am looking forward to is teaching, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep this summer.   The theme centers on  what it means to be human, which I think some of my colleagues, and Princeton University have forgotten.

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