Thursday, March 12, 2009

Retract that

Ok, so I haven't blogged in awhile. This was made evident to me when a fellow blogger walked up to me and stated that his blog is even more up to date than mine, something I hung my head in shame about. Hey, my only excuse is that you need to know that if I'm not blogging, I'm really focused on education stuff. I'm focused on getting back on track in the classroom now that basketball season is over. I'm focused on working on Professional Learning Communities in my department, and I'm dealing with this budget stuff that makes teaching a different sort of "experience".

Unless you are living under a rock somewhere, you probably have heard that California's schools are getting blasted with cuts. Schools are cutting teachers, programs, schools, athletics, music, you name it. Ukiah is no different, having to figure out a way to cut millions of dollars this year and next without completely disrupting the flow of education to students. It is not going to be an easy process.

So I decided to go to the recent school board meeting and make a little speech. Having a background in Economics and more insight (through reading blogs) about what is going on "out there" allows me to look at situations with a different eye. I can accept that the district needs to cut, although I can debate what cuts should be implemented. Right now the argument is Class Size Reduction at the K-3 and 9-10 grade levels. I can see both sides. First, I understand the idea that in hard budget times, teachers should be able to teach more than 20 kids. Hell, the lowest number I have is 24 and that's an Advanced Placement class. Three of my classes are over 30, two of which are full at 34. You aren't going to get a whole lot of sympathy from my end about raising the class size by a couple of kids, from 20 to say....23. However, I'll always support class size reduction because it is simply better for educating kids, and all the statistics that I see against it are skewed, bias, or are comparing apples to oranges. Addressing the needs of 34 or 20........hmmmmmmm, let me see......I can pretty much guarantee that the needs of "bubble kids" will be better met with the 14 fewer in the classroom. One-on-one attention will be a lot easier to provide. Oh, and the argument (ahem) that 20-1 is bogus because it forces schools to hire less qualified teachers is silly. That's trying to mix two different arguments to formulate a bizarre stance against CSR (Class Size Reduction). Here's a question: would you like that great teacher to be in a classroom with 34 students or 20 students? I think the answer is evident.

Anyway, I went to this board meeting and spoke in front of the crowd about two issues; transparency, and organization. When I mean transparency, I mean from all angles, and I said that. I want the district, the teacher's union, and the community to be as transparent as possible. That way, diverse opinions get thrown on the table and creative solutions get implemented. That's what I said in front of the board, the crowd, my fellow teachers, and the district Super. I also mentioned that to get through this, we needed to act as an organization, and everyone needs to take a role in leadership. The Super needs to be a leader, the Board needs to be leaders, teachers need to be leaders, custodians need to be leaders, the community needs to be leaders.......we won't get through this crisis and subsequent ones unless the parts come together form a unified, driven whole. I hate the "us vs. them" attitude that members of the board, the community, administration, and the teacher's union occasionally promote, and I told that meeting that those attitudes weren't going to work and we needed to find solutions.

I didn't mean it be a big deal, it was more like venting. I like what I do and I don't like seeing our "business" go down because egos, agendas, and a lack of cooperative vision get in the way. But apparently it was well received. I've heard from dozens of people that said it was a good message to start the process and that it seemed to address some fundamental issues that needed to be heard. Then around Noon today I was pointed to this article in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

".....community member Jeff Silva-Brown told the board that he doesn't like the "us versus (the district) attitude.... Cuts, if that involves a school closure, needs to be part of the dialogue."

Um, that is not what I said. I side nothing about not agreeing or disagreeing to the cuts made by the school district, and I specifically said that all cuts, including closing a school, should be considered. I talked about all of us having to make a sacrifice and doing this together, while the article makes me sound confrontational and demanding. I intentionally avoided that tone and lo and behold, the Ukiah Daily Journal makes it sound like conflict in the making. After receiving a call from a higher up saying that they felt I was misrepresented, I finally called Ms. Monica Krauth, the reporter at large, and stated my displeasure. I told her that she took bits and pieces of my speech and totally misrepresented what I stated at the meeting. Her response?
-I'm sorry, but that's what you said.
-You said "us vs. them" attitude (my exact quote "We need to get beyond the us vs. them attitude between teacher and district, teacher and teacher, community and district, and community and teacher. It will benefit us in the coming to a solution to this crisis".
-Really? I was told by many people that it was a fabulous piece.
-You seemed angry at the meeting (I was hardly angry. I know the situation and I know the current cuts are worst case. If I was angry, I wouldn't have been there.)
-The entire tone of the meeting was angry (I didn't see that either. It was very respectable).
-Write a Letter to the Editor if you don't like it.

Wow, so that's the second Ukiah Daily Journal reporter that has screwed me without care (K.C. Meadows being the first). The best thing about the Ukiah Daily Journal was the parent that volunteered to report and write stories for the Boy's Basketball season. He was great and he did it for nothing. The season is done now, so cancel your subscription to the paper. If not, you'll soon realize that Yellow Journalism is not relegated to the Drudge Report. Seriously, there is no justice in the world if Circuit City and Bear Stearns go under, and the Ukiah Daily Journal gets out of this economic crisis intact.

Thanks to those people that care about where the district is headed, and to those that took the time to let me know about the article. We'll get through this.
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