Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sometimes Things SUCK!! (Yes, I am using the "S" word)


About two weeks ago, all of the principals were called to a meeting about the budget, or lack thereof. It was on a Thursday at the end of the day. I know that I was dreading getting the call to come to this meeting. I knew it was inevitable, but that doesn't mean I was prepared for what we were going to be told.

At that meeting, our superintendent told us about the latest budget projections that the district had been given. The Arizona Legislature has a long standing history of not being friendly to public education. So the projections and outlook were very bleak. Based on the information that they were given for this time, our district alone has a projected deficit of $27 million. That is mind boggling to say the least.

April 15 is best known for tax day. However, according to state statute, that is also the day that teachers have to find out if they have a contract for the next year. For the 38 years that I have been in education, this date was just that--a date. Yes, we always had to type our list of teachers that were being recommended for reemployment. Yes, that always went over to the district before a Governing Board meeting in April. Yes, it was important if there was a teacher who may not have a contract renewed because of inadequate classroom performance. But on the whole, it really never seemed to be that significant to those of us in the trenches.

When it became apparent to districts that the legislature was not going to be even close to any kind of a budget by this date, many of the districts and the Arizona School Board Association asked the legislature to change the April 15 date until June 15. District didn't want to have to lay off teachers based on insufficient budget information. The Arizona Education Association opposed this change of dates. It was defeated in the legislature by the minority Democrats. At the time, I thought that was probably a mistake as June 15 would have given us more time to figure out what to do and maybe we would have some definite information about the money allotted to our district.

In order to find $27 million in a budget, salaries are the biggest source of funds. So we were told that all first year teachers, as well as phased retirement teachers, teachers on end of year contracts, future teachers who were given a letter of intent... would all need to be told that they would not be given a contract for next year at this time. In all, there were nine teachers at my school that I had to meet with on Friday after school.

I truly thought that last year when our school didn't make AYP and had to go through school improvement just because we gave accommodations to special ed students was the hardest "thing" I have had to be a part of as an educator. I can say that this meeting was the worst. We are talking about teachers' lives!!!

That Friday meeting was heart-wrenching, to say the least. There is a general pervasive feeling of gloom every day when I go to school. Gloom about these wonderful educators, some of whom are the finest, most experienced teachers I have ever worked with. Some of whom have such awesome potential for our children! Some who have dedicated themselves to working with our Autistic children and are fabulous at it. And worry about what is going to happen next year as far as class size is concerned, will there be enough supplies and books......a sense of foreboding.....

This is when I changed my mind about the April 15th deadline. Maybe the general public will FINALLY get up in arms and do something--write their legislators, bombard them with emails and phone calls, enlist the help of their friends and neighbors --whatever it takes.

We need to educate our children. That is what our country is all about. It is a cliche to say that children are the future. BUT THEY ARE!!!!!!!

I have come home exhausted over the last few weeks. It is an exhaustion that I have not felt before. I feel so powerless...........

Then to top it off, I spent today down at the Arizona Department of Education listening to teachers who have done something "immoral or unprofessional" as part of the committee that I have sat on for the last nine years. We listened to two different teachers who had come to school drunk. They are both sober now and realize the mistakes that they have made. It is really sad when these things happen. I think today it was harder than normal.........

I know that writing this post won't really help with any of these situations. However, it is always therapeutic to me--at least a little bit....maybe?

6 remarks:

Anonymous said...

I know how hard all of this has been for you Sheila . . . it is NEVER fun being the messenger delivering bad news. Thanks as always for your support!
Love & hugs,
Nancy

Anonymous said...

Sheila,

When will our legislators realize the only way to be successful as a nation is to educate our children!!!
We will be praying for all teachers!

Lena

Anonymous said...

Sheila,
I think you have every right to use that "S" word and maybe some others, too. How fortunate your staff is to have such a loving and caring principal. Hopefully none of this will come to fruition. Please don't make yourself sick over it. Remember St. Sister Faustina, her prayer is very powerful.
Love,
Marion

Anonymous said...

My Dear Friend and Principal.
Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers so much during this difficult time with so many decisions to be made. You must know how much you mean to all your staff and that they know you hold each one of them in your heart and only want the best for each and every one of them.
Love,
Sandra

Susie of Arabia said...

When is our society going to realize that our educators deserve so much more pay, recognition, and praise than they get? All of our futures are in the hands of teachers.
I think they should take back all those obscenely gross bonuses given to all those thieving execs and distribute it to our teachers!

N-Search of Peace said...

From the first time I met you, you are everything that is kind, good, and right in this world...
I call you friend, mentor, principle, teacher, example, Mother, Grandmother, and most importantly, messenger of hope to our children and their future...
Stay strong sweetie...we are all right by your side in the ugliness...we will find the beauty together!
love and hope to you...
N-Peace