Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pink Slips

Early Friday morning, it's dark outside, my favorite time of day. Peaceful, restful, no kids.

I cluck my tongue as I input student grades, more then a few of them are dangerously close to failing, but then not turning in assignments tends to have that effect. In many ways, an incomplete is much easier to grade, you don't have to judge, assess, or evaluate the work because there is no work - just mark a zero and move on, when Mrs. Borquez enters the room.

"Why aren't you wearing pink?" she asks, eyes full of disapproval.

I pause to look up. "Sorry, I don't wear pink." As a rule, I don't like wearing bright colors, the 80's was all about garish colors: bright yellow, neon green, and hot pink. Somehow I missed the rainbow and went straight to the nineties dark blues, browns, and blacks, becoming a fashion victim ahead of my time.

I once had a girlfriend who tried to get me to wear pink by "accidently" washing a white and red shirt at the same time.

I tossed the shirt. We broke up.

"Didn't you hear the news? Thirty teachers got pink slips yesterday at the meeting."

"What meeting?"

"The meeting to determine who they were going to have to let go because of the budget crisis."

For the first time I'm taken aback. "Thirty teachers? That's like 20% of all the teachers at our school. Was special ed hit?"

Borquez shakes her head. "No, but they targeted all the new teachers without credentials."

My heart sinks. Our school is new, and full of new teachers, teachers who still have the energy and will to care. "How can they fire thirty teachers? Someone has to teach the classes."

Borquez frowns. "They will get teachers to teach the classes, older vets from other schools who will bump the news ones. Seniority comes first."

My heart drops into my stomach. Anytime I've ever had a problem with an experienced teacher it has always been someone older with a dim approval of special ed. "This is bullshit!"

"Which is why you need to wear pink!" Borquez continues, adamant. "We need to show our solidarity."

"I don't own anything pink."

A minute later Ms. Owens enters carrying a handful of pink scarves. "I have scarves if anyone needs one."

I hold out my hand. "Give me one."

Owens hands me a half pink, half leopard spotted scarf. I fling it around my neck, prentend I'm Tom Baker from Dr. Who.

School morale the rest of the day is low. Six of the teachers in my academy have been targeted, including the academy lead, Mr. Bustamante. He's been teaching four years, but hasn't completed his credential.

It's infurating to think that not having competed a series of unimportant, unrealistic, irrelevant educational pedgagogy courses are the difference between how the state determines if you are "qualified." But that's how it's done....

.....and people wonder why the education system is failing.

Other teachers try to make a more positive spin on it. Don't worry, these teachers will be fine, the money from the stimulus package will come through and they'll all keep their jobs. The state just has to notify them now in case the "worst" happens.

Alfonso, the teacher whom I affectionally refer to as "The mountain that moves," has a different take. "You worry too much, Leiken. This is all just a game, this is how the district scares the state into getting money. Threaten to let a large group of teachers go so you can get a big chunk of stimulus."

I'm not so sure. "Yeah, but thirty teachers? You know some of them are going to get bumped."

"No one is going to get bumped, there is a teacher shortage."

"What about all those bureacurats at Beaudry? Many of them are going to lose their jobs and have to go back to the classroom."

Alfonso scoffs. "They aren't going back to the classroom. Those fossils will retire."

I'm glad he's so confident. But I'm not so sure.

What happens next year when there is no stimulus?

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