Friday, June 26, 2009

Live Blogging the Willits School Board meeting

Well, not really.  I mean, I’m actually at the Willits School Board meeting blogging, but I’m not really going to blog about the school board meeting.  My wife happens to work for the district, so the less said about the meeting the better. 

Actually, if you want to see what’s happening at Willits, check out the Willits News about the issues with the district.  The interesting thing about little Willits is that it might be a microcosm of what’s happening all over the state.  School districts are being hammered, districts are having to make tough decisions, and labor unions are bringing up questions on which way to move.  Like many districts, my own at Ukiah included, people are starting to point at each other and asking “what are you going to do to cut down spending”.  Certificated salaries take up a massive amount of school budget.  Yes, we are incredibly underpaid, but the reality is that society hasn’t seen teachers as a legitimate priority, so the meager funding that gets to districts is balanced towards the paychecks of teachers.  The other reality is that we are at a point now where neither the administrators nor the districts can cut without seriously impacting students.  So the arguing is fairly pointless, except that both parties need to sacrifice, neither can afford to sacrifice, and in the end students are going to get the short end of the stick.

Watching reaction locally has been discouraging as well.  With the population of California suffering some serious hardships in the current recession, public sentiment is not really in line with the plight of the teacher.  Unions that are sticking to their guns and refusing to make sacrifices are being seen as elitist snobs that are trying to weasel their way out of the general pain shared by everyone in the state.  It is not a good situation.  And while I can’t say that I blame the people’s outrage, I’ll make two points:

1)  Teacher’s sacrifice more than the average worker to start with.  I spend thousands of dollars a year on professional development and supplies that do nothing to raise my pay, but do everything to impact the learning of your children.  I’m not going to have much of a summer vacation this year, as the learning is going to take place week after week (I’m in a classroom seven hours a day this week), and my trips are full of gathering information for classroom use.  I don’t mind hitting all the historical sights and buying all the resources (we collectively bought around $300 worth of materials on the last trip), but don’t bullshit me with the argument that I’m overpaid.  I willingly sacrifice for your children, and I love doing it.  But don’t you dare insult me by acting like I don’t deserve my salary, or more.

2)  Your children are going to suffer the consequences of this recession.  That’s not a threat, that’s a fact.  The rumor at the high school is that the district has ordered the high school to cut spending by 85%.  That’s not a typo.  85%.  A teacher like myself that has been looking to work more efficiently might be able to minimize the blow with the use of technology, but teachers that have been using their form of methods and resources for twenty years are going to have to massively adjust their strategies, and those adjustments are going to be brutal on valuable education time.  I’m all for trimming the fat on bloated spending, but 85% is insane.  Be prepared for some tough conditions.

So I’m going back to half listening to the Willits School Board meeting.  I see administrators, teachers, school board members, CSEA members, and community folk all here listening to the dire news, all reaching for answers, and all waiting for variables that can’t be controlled to come to fruition. 

Get your act together State of California.  We want to work for your kids.  Stop working against us.    

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