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High Anxiety and Paranoid Dreams

March 24, 2011

Mural on the building of the Maine Department of Labor that has Governor LePage in such a tizzy

With the succession of events in my life and in states across America in the last week, I can barely see straight and my usual anxiety has turned to downright paranoia –  paranoia  and fear of a country taking the fast road to corporate fascism.   Think I’m paranoid?  Here we go:

Maine governor Paul Le Page has ordered the removal of a beautiful 3  year old 36 foot tall mural depicting scenes from Maine’s labor history- you know, things like strikes and such. He says it is too “pro-union.”  In addition, he has ordered the removal and renaming  of rooms in the building, including the excision of Francis Perkins’ name, the first woman cabinet member who helped create the Social Security program. The first step in any takeover is to remove the visual history of the past that legitimizes the “enemy,”   kind of like the painting over of Small Learning Communities murals at Fremont, all completed before the new “people” showed up.  It might be inconvenient to have to explain to new teachers what AIR or EARTH stand for.   Still think I’m a bit paranoid and dramatic?

On Tuesday, a  propaganda fest took place  at Fremont High in which people were bused in to cheer on the civil right violation of reconstitution, joining  the likes of McKenna, Monica Garcia and the turncoat Zimmer.  I guess not too many Fremont teachers and students were interested  in celebrating the destruction of a school, since few attended.  I guess the powers that be foresaw the lack of interest and even with the lack of union activity, really couldn’t threaten staff to attend. Hence the busload of “community members” bused in by one of the many “community groups” in attendance Inner City Struggle and Families in Schools being two of them. I mention the latter group because they are a pro-charter, anti- public school group in disguise who I happened to run into while at the CABE conference yesterday (California Association for  Bilingual Education).  They were at a booth and I said to them,”I think I have heard of you,” to which one of the representatives asked, “Have you heard good or bad,”  which piqued my interest.  I said, “I think your group supported the reconstitution of Fremont High, you were at the propaganda thing yesterday.”  They plead ignorance and said “Maybe it was [this other person] from our group.”  I said maybe. I was then drawn to a flier that said “Title 1 and Public School Choice” – except it wasn’t the PSC I am familiar with, the new schools and “failing schools”  that are up for grabs, no this is the more insidious kind of choice, and how misleading it was.   The very friendly Families in Schools rep explained that they were “educating” families on how to remove their children from Program Improvement Schools and send them to non-program improvement schools, apparently something cooked up under NCLB.  I explained that I came from a dramatically improving PI school and that by 2014, 82% of all schools would be PI schools.  I asked where all of these kids would go when most schools were PI.  I was getting pretty upset so I kept walking with my colleague from CDS, Edgar who said, ” I don’t think she understood anything you were talking about.”

Yesterday a student emailed  me, “The teacher who replaced you sucks,  he is more difficult and we don’t learn much. ” Another told me, “I went to Fremont to see you and you weren’t there.” I’m sure this scenario has played out countless times with other “not selected” teachers  whose students show up to once familiar classrooms only to find a scab teacher with little connection to the community reading scripted curriculum.   Because there are those who are desperate to mislead the public into thinking that a “New Fremont” with fresh paint sans fence can replace real teachers.  They are desperate to downplay the fact that it is the relationships that teachers build with students, not the test prep, that make them want to achieve.

I came home from CABE yesterday not only to those messages but to a five page letter from Superintendent Cortines thanking me for my participation in the “second round” of Public School Choice and making suggestions for revisions to my Performing Arts Community School Plan, specifically given the fact that I don’t view data as a “judgement” on teachers, how will I use it?  I also have to sign a paper “accepting the offer to operate a school on the South Region High School #2 campus.” My stress level rose, my anxiety level increased and I wanted to faint. Operate a school? Me?  I just want to teach.  Isn’t the principal supposed to “operate the school?”  I began looking for an easy way out, which I usually do under any high stress situation.   “Maybe I should just stay at the CDS,” I said to myself. Sure, half the kids are high, one just got off of a 72 hour hold and another is reading at a second grade level, but my principal is supportive and we are off the grid and not in the middle of the politics of education.

My head started spinning. I turned on the radio to listen to my favorite angry ranting  liberal talk show host, Mike Malloy on 1150 AM to try to forget that I had 48 hours to decide if I wanted to sign my life away on a new school which will receive little district monies and none of the start up funds from the billionaire boy’s club.  I became even more paranoid when Malloy reported that nine state legislatures have creation bills pending in various stages that would force teachers to teach essentially the book of Genesis in science class. “That will create a lot of jobs,” he railed sarcastically, adding that “These  god damn Republicans are a bunch of rat bastards.”  My sentiments exactly.

I then drove to my night clinic appointment at the USC School of Dentistry where in the waiting room,  I noticed a familiar face on the cover of the Daily Trojan newspaper.  It was Sarah Knopp in her Progressive Educators t-shirt in some type of teach-in about the antics of another crazy Republican legislature, this time in Arizona.

As if I wasn’t paranoid enough by that time,  today at the CABE conference, my colleague talked me into going to a series of very informative, if paranoia inducing lectures about the happenings in Arizona.  ELD classes have been replaced by something called SEI –  Structured English Immersion.  Sounds innocuous enough, right? I’m  just being paranoid….   How this works is that anyone identified as an English Learner in Arizona goes through a daily four hour pull out session yes that is correct- four hours and all language arts. You see where I am going with this- they are essentially segregated from Native English speakers.  They even sit separately for lunch.   Arizona claims that kids “redesignate faster”  but they are not required to say how long students are in the program.  How does this work? One hour of grammar, one hour of vocabulary, one hour of phonics and an hour of something else.  No social studies and just a smattering of math.  I’m sure some  buddy of Jeb Bush is making a mint off of this program.  I asked if teachers are trying to organize to stop it. I was informed that Arizona stripped teachers of tenure last year.  Still think my anxiety and paranoia are misplaced? The “English police” patrol the classrooms of Arizona making sure there are no materials in Spanish or any other language in their classrooms.      When I expressed concern that we could lose tenure in California, a colleague replied, “That could never happen here! This is California!”     If you don’t like the odds of hoping the past can protect us from the future,  then attend the March 26th rally at the LA Convention Center

March 26th 10 am Los Angeles Convention Center

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 3, 2011 11:09 am

    .The three school boards that operate school systems in Pearl River Co. Poplarville s school board is appointed and three members of Picayune s board are appointed by the city council and two members elected from districts outside the city limits..School boards throughout the state have 10 days to finalize contracts with teachers after Barbour signs the appropriations bills but most have already finalized things although they still have to officially adopt their budgets and contracts..Cuts of some teachers are expected in the PRC system at Carriere but the school board there has not made any formal announcements to the press and public on projected cuts although board president Twila Crabtree several weeks ago told the Item that the possibility was in the first round of budget cuts that seven teachers might be cut..At Pearl River Central too even the decision to not fill the position of head band director caught board members by surprise and was made an issue recently by band parents who heard the position would remain vacant from information brought home by their students ..The Carriere board on Thursday continued wrestling with its budget giving supt. Merritt in his statement said Poplarville had decided to dip into cash reserves that s money set aside for hard times..Picayune has not announced any cuts in personnel or programs to the press or whether it is planning any..Merritt on Friday said that Poplarville was facing budget reductions of 1.2 million approximately 12 percent.. This does not include the reduction in state revenues that the school district has had to absorb last year and the current school year he said..In what could be described as a tough major decision Merritt said that other cost saving measures include non-renewing one-third of the teacher assistants. That will no doubt place tougher work-loads on teachers..Here is Merritt s complete statement verbatim . The Poplarville school system is facing a significant reduction in Mississippi Adequate Education revenues estimated over 1.2 million approximately 12 percent for the upcoming school year.. This does not include the reduction in state revenues that the school district has had to absorb last year and the current school year.

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