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Making it through the night

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“You can't get to no better days unless you make it through the night.”
-Better Days sung by Dianne Reeves

We want to provide a great education for children living and surviving in the neighborhood we call Treme. We’ve hired experienced, highly qualified, veteran teachers. We promised and delivered to them the highest salaries in town. We involved them in decision-making, purchasing, and every important plan, giving them respect for the school leaders they are. How hard can it be with this type of staff? It’s very difficult when teachers are distracted by politics. It’s a challenge when teachers are in an emotional turmoil about things that they think they know. It’s impossibly hard when the teachers decide that the children WILL NOT BE FIRST! Monday morning, fifteen of our twenty four classroom teachers made that decision. It is too disheartening to write about and I need to be up early for tomorrow.

I do understand how the teachers may be feeling, if they really believe that the Board fired their principal. It’s just not true. I can accept that they want to blame someone for their disappointment and are focusing that anger on the Board. It’s just not fair. I can’t understand how some of the teachers who I’ve known and loved for many years could turn their backs on our children today. I didn’t think they could do that to me either. But they did. And it hurts so much. Good night.

5 Comments

I do not understand why you think teachers turned their backs. All I ask for is time; give me a teacher's aid and I could do so much. Perhaps the problem is frustration from lack of resources. As a computer science teacher of 25 years I wonder why those outside the classroom do not provide the technology and time resources that could really LNCB in this 21st century.

Our school has only been operating for one semester. The resources are coming in steadily. However, we don't have everything we need. Finding and hiring social workers, nurses, and support staff is the current challenge. We need the teachers to continue working while these resources are brought in. They can't go home in protest that the school doesn't have enough resources and force the children to sit at home. Our teachers are the most important resources; it's why we hired them first. I agree with you; all I ask for is time.

You must take time to get all resources in place please continue to love and pray for New Orleans students. I do not think any of those teachers you have hired have turned their back on the students they just want resources NOW and sometimes in this changing world of ours we must be PATIENT with our administrators and lawmakers. Pray for them and work with them for the good of the students in New Orleans. I admire all of you for your willingness to Continue the fight for the best education for those students there in LA.

Why is it that when teachers get to the end of their rope, 'they' are not doing what's best for kids? Oddly enough, even though I teach in another state, I am somewhat familiar with the situation because I am acquainted with a teacher from New Orleans. In a strange coincidence, the school in which this teacher taught last year was the very one taken over by Roslyn Smith's charter school. I won't even get into the politics that would take poor children trying to cope post-Katrina and kick them and their pubic school teachers out of the building where they had some security so that a charter school could take over. Oh, yes, I understand that Smith offered the teachers there jobs in her charter school, but if the present situation is any indication, they were right to question the situation.

Dr. Smith: You seem to be engaging in a pity party of monumental proportions. Get over it and DEAL WITH THE REASONS teachers in your school are upset. If you are asking teachers to teach but are not supplying them with what they need to do the job, you are not part of the solution, but part of the problem.

My experience has been that teachers will do anything they can to go the extra mile, but eventually, if there is only lip service, but not real support, they will stop trying. I've seen some of the best teachers quit the field because of burnout--just one extra needy kid or difficult parent too many, especially when there was no administrative support.

Please don't do that to your teachers. Instead of telling them how disappointed you are in them, look to how you can change the situation. Sometimes, talking the talk is not enough.

Susan, we spent four hours in an emotional discussion on Tuesday trying to figure out why the teachers staged the sickout. The issues were not mainly about resources as you seem to think. That topic came up during discussion. The questions about resources could have been posed to the Board at any time. The main reason for the work stoppage was the change in school leadership.

My disappointment was because the teachers were making plans to disrupt school at the exact same time that the Board of Directors was holding a special meeting in the building. It was the perfect time for the teachers to express themselves in a professional manner. The Board did not have the opportunity to hear the teachers out until after the public display of displeasure. Other people, like you, have now formed opinions about what's happening in our school based upon innuendo, rumors, and incomplete information about "the present situation." The teachers are back at school working hard to put this action behind them.

I want to make it clear that the charter regulations give preference to the students who are already attending school in the building. None of the students who attended the RSD operated school were kicked out when the charter was awarded. We have many more neighborhood students now because more schools opened. Also, the teachers canvassed the neighborhood to find students who were being bussed all over town. McDonogh 42 is not the "school of last resort" that it was on February 5, 2007 when your colleague worked there. It was opened in a rush to accommodate 300 students who were "wait-listed" for weeks because all other schools were full.

Although I did not sit in the room for the entire discussion, I do have the questions that the teachers wrote for the moderator. The Board is committed to finding answers to the questions and solutions to the problems. The new principal has plans to utilize his leadership team to bring issues to the Board in our monthly open meetings. On the question of resources, we are advertising all of the vacant positions for support personnel even though we don’t have the federal dollars to supplement the salaries for them. I hope that the teachers understand we will have to cut out something else from the budget to fast-track the hiring of additional staff.

Finally, when I write this blog, I am expressing my true feelings. I don’t want or need pity. When I’m happy, I express my joy. If things go wrong, I write about my disappointment. However, I always look for the lessons that I can learn. Thank you for your comments.


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