Today I received in the mail a letter from my union informing me that we will be rallying on October 8. Then I got a robocall. I'm sure that if the WTU had responded to any of my seven requests to actually get a WTU email account (which they did not) I would likely have received an email. "A rally," you might say. "At least they're planning to do something." Wrong again, loser.
The goal-oriented union leaders are calling this a "Rally for Respect." BUH. We're facing layoffs, there's a new evaluation system that many are mad about, and we've been in negotiations on a contract for like fifteen years. But the intangible "respect" -- that's what we're rallying for.
Real leaders have actual, measurable goals -- voting rights, increased wages, new parks. We could have picked any of the dozens of problems facing DCPS teachers and rallied about that. But that would have involved decision making, and we shy away from decision making. Of course, the actual goal of this rally is that Candi Peterson already had a rally, and George Parker can't be seen as doing nothing, so we're having a rally. Go team!
Now, I do agree that the lack of respect for the profession of teaching is a problem, and it certainly contributes to the many challenges we face in our schools. But the solution is not to rally, it's to change the way teaching is perceived through public relations, education, and -- oh, I don't know -- an actual change in the way teachers are trained and evaluated.
Instead, we "Rally for Respect." Ugh. At least the name is alliterative.
Seriously. We should give this some thought. Allow me to illustrate my point with a story.
This morning was our regular Tuesday staff meeting in the library before school. It started, like they always do, at 8:10. Curiously, our administrators were nowhere in sight. Turns out, our principal was late in getting to school, and didn't actually arrive until about 8:30. At that point, she made an announcement that the meeting was canceled. This, of course, was news to the entire staff, as we were actively in the meeting. The woman who was presenting (not a teacher at our school) just kept on going, and it was one of the best morning meetings we've ever had. She gave us great resources, communicated lots of useful information, and even ended early.
Food for thought: we've got to lose several positions at my school, and things seem to work better when administrators aren't around. I'm just saying...
Today, DCPS educators got this email in their inboxes from Michelle Rhee:
September 16, 2009 To all DCPS staff members,
As you know, at this point in the school year, we are engaged in the annual equalization process -- adjusting school budgets, staffing, and other resources so that they align to actual student enrollment. Equalization adjusts resources based on an individual school's actual enrollment. It can mean a plus or minus in a school budget, depending on that enrollment. As you also know, we make these budget modifications every year.
This year DCPS faces an added complication because, due to DC Council budget reductions over the summer, we are facing a budget shortfall for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010. Central office will absorb this shortfall to the maximum extent possible. But because we have pushed as much funding as possible out from central and into school budgets, the single greatest expenditure in DCPS is now school-based personnel. Therefore, there is no way to effect a reduction of this magnitude without impacting positions at schools.
Accordingly, many of our schools will be losing positions as of September 30, 2009. These funding adjustments will be consistent with current enrollment at each individual school. We will utilize a Reduction in Force (RIF), which will allow principals to consider several factors, including the needs of the school and the performance of staff in order to determine which positions will be eliminated and which positions will be retained. This RIF will be implemented consistent with the requirements of 5 DCMR Chapter 15.
Every school reduction will be made in the best interest of students. We are committed to minimizing the impact that any reductions will have on the quality of academic programs, and we will work tirelessly with principals to ensure a smooth transition for all of our students, schools and personnel. Our students and their achievement are, as always, our priority.
Sincerely, Michelle Rhee
Hmmm. Well, isn't that interesting. Kind of scary, no? Personal fears of termination aside, I'd hate to lose staff from our school. From what I've seen so far this year, everyone seems to be doing really well. This is certainly a bummer.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't snarkily mock the rumor mills and fear mongering that have already begun in full. Some are already accusing Rhee of fudging numbers so that she can eliminate certain teachers. According to some, Rhee is lying about enrollment numbers, unfairly penalizing certain schools, and plotting to target certain people. She probably also personally manufactured the recession so that a budget shortfall would ensue. She's so crafty! If Michelle Rhee were smart and powerful enough to mastermind all of the things she's been accused of doing, she'd be a Google supercomputer.
Michelle Rhee certainly isn't perfect, but there's no way she's as much of an evil genius as some people claim. If she were, she'd either be making millions in private industry or running the Korean mafia.
According to an article in the Washington Post, enrollment in DCPS is actually close to the targets set by administrators when negotiating the schools' budget for this year.
You may remember the hullabaloo (that's a fun word, eh?) about Rhee's enrollment projections for this year. People called her crazy, stupid, and misleading. (Personally, I thought she was just being overly and foolishly optimistic.) Turns out, she and her team got it pretty close to right. We are only a couple hundred kids away from the predicted (and budgeted) enrollment. This is significant, because it may represent a stabilizing of the years of rapidly declining enrollment in DCPS. And (if previous years are any indication) when some charter schools* start kicking kids out and sending them back to DCPS, this year's enrollment might actually exceed last year's.
*Some charter schools. Not all. I know those of you who teach at charter schools might go into a tizzy without that qualifier. And no one wants to see teachers it a tizzy.
Seriously. Is there some run on paper that I'm not aware of?
At my school (and at most others in DCPS, it seems) paper is locked in a storeroom to which teachers have no access. The only person I know with a key is a business manager who is -- how shall I put this? -- difficult to get a hold of. Frequently she's "too busy" to give out paper. She'll decide (maybe once a month) to post a sign (usually handwritten and barely legible) on some random door somewhere that says "I'm giving out paper today at 8," but if you miss that sign and don't get paper that day then you're SOL.
I was recently in my wife's office and I stumbled upon a supply closet with (GASP!) paper, office supplies, binders -- everything you'd need. My eyes glazed over like a kid in a candy store. "You just come in here and get what you need?" I asked with astonishment. Why does this not exist in DCPS? Are teachers so untrustworthy? What do they think we'll do if given access to the paper supply? Just run the halls throwing paper every which way, laughing and screaming like crazy people?
I can see the Capitol Building from my classroom window, but I can't get the basic supplies that are needed to function in my school. In the words of Homer Simpson: "That's not America. That's not even Mexico."