Friday, I got to spend the morning in two of our schools volunteering and helping teachers with computer issues while they taught their classes. I got to witness first hand the difficulty our teachers are facing in attempting to educate our children over the past two weeks. Hostile working environment doesn’t really cover the might makes right approach of the superintendent these days.
A Difficult Start
The opening of the school year has been an extremely difficult one for our teachers. They’ve been put in the impossible situation of having to teach their overcrowded classrooms without textbooks, without the promised computers for at least a week, without working, reliable, stress-tested networking support.
They’ve been reprimanded for not using the computers enough, despite the fact that the computers and the network they’re connecting to are not working properly.
They’ve been reprimanded for using paper.
They’re being monitored down to the level of pings coming from a classroom. Principals are receiving threatening calls from the central office insisting that they bring more teachers and students online, even though as I’ve mentioned, many classrooms did not have computers/iPads available until Friday of the first week, and even though the network regularly fails as a result of the number of people attempting to log onto the network as required.
They’re being required to stop their classes so that the Superintendent can film propaganda films, and interrupt classes to take a photo-op bus trip, to show how much they love the new technology.
You know, I’ve come to realize that if you’re doing the right thing, you rarely have to force people to speak well of it. Wardynski’s need of propaganda, which will be shared at the board meeting on Tuesday, proves that all is not as rosy as the Superintendent would have you believe.
There are suggestions that even email is being read by some unknown and unnamed consultant firm working in a “War Room.”
Please keep this in mind if you are contacting your child’s teacher about anything via email: You’re “private” discussion with your child’s teacher is likely being read by a consultant of the district. This consultant likely gets paid to identify problems, so if you indicate in anyway that your child is not perfectly normal (god help us), it’s a fairly safe assumption that someone’s going to notice.
You should not assume that what you think is a private conversation actually is. If you want to discuss anything that you’d like to remain confidential, schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher and meet her/him in person.
Hostile Working Environment
This is the impossible situation our teachers are operating in as school begins.
And yet despite this hostile working environment, our teachers are meeting the needs of our kids. They are managing to guide their students through these turbulent times. They are managing to help our students adjust.
Our teachers, despite the lack of textbooks, networks, computers, and support from the central office, are managing to teach our kids and help prepare them for their futures.
They’re doing this because they care for our kids and their future. They want to see our schools succeed. They want to see our community to continue to grow in wisdom, insight, and understanding, you know, the products of education that cannot be evaluated by a standardized test.
These are the qualities of education that Dr. Wardynski seems either unwilling or incapable of understanding, and yet these are some of the true markers for a well-educated person.
Dr. Wardynski, however, just continues to defend this reckless transformation by citing such works as Project RED. Project RED is another propaganda piece from three private organizations–The Greaves Group, The Hayes Connection, and One-to-One Institute–who benefit from selling contract services to help convert districts to digital systems.
In short, the “evidence” Dr. Wardynski is citing to support his reckless actions is nothing other than a simple PR stunt masquerading as research. Project Red is not research. It has not been peer reviewed. It should not be considered authoritative in any way.
So why would Dr. Wardynski cite such dubious evidence in support of this transition? I can think of four reasons:
- He didn’t bother reading it before he mentioned it at the last board meeting when he was calling Mr. Wittenborg’s suggestions “absurd” and “ludicrous.”
- He didn’t think anyone else would bother reading it for themselves since it was, in his words, “quite a tome.”
- He knew it didn’t matter anyway since the board had already approved his recommendation to transform how the district’s classrooms operate a mere two and a half months ago.
- He knew that there isn’t any empirical evidence supporting this level of transformation on a district wide level.
The truth is probably some combination of all four of the reasons, but the fourth one sounds really familiar to me. When it was announced that six of our elementary/middle schools would combine into just three schools, one of the first questions I asked was, “what evidence do you have that shows that merging high performing schools allows for a continuance of that high performance?”
His answer: It doesn’t matter if I have evidence or not, if the schools don’t merge, they will be closed.
Might Makes Right
The man holding a gun to your head doesn’t need to provide you with evidence that his ideas will work. Might makes right.
His responses to Mr. Wittenborg were exactly the same.
His treatment of teachers is exactly the same.
His disregard of parents is exactly the same.
I’m right because I’m strong. And you will do what I say, or I will destroy you, your schools, your teachers, and your children.
These are the classic responses of a bully.
It’s an excellent example of the implementation of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine here in our home town. If you want to remake the world into one where people lay aside ideas they would never consider laying aside before, wait for a crisis (or manufacture one), and while the people are confused, panicked, and disoriented, swoop in with a plan to take over, privatize, and strip mine for profits.
A lot of people have gotten quite rich off of our “broke” district over the past fourteen months.
The problem is that with every penny we give to Microsoft, HP, Pearson, TFA, and all the rest of the Broad supported organizations that Wardynski fights tooth and nail for, our children suffer.
They suffer in ever increasing class sizes. They suffer in decreasing services. They suffer when classrooms are disrupted on the whim of a superintendent who wants some good press, or videos, or decides two months before classes start to completely change everything that happens in the classroom.
A Time To Stand
And yet our teachers press on despite the hostility they face. The press on because they love children and because they love and believe in the power of education.
We need to support them by standing up for them. We need to be their voice in our community. We need to make sure that their voice is heard in the board meetings.
Because no one else is doing it.
Teachers are fighting every day and night to help our children learn. The least we can do is speak out on their behalf.
This Tuesday (yes, Tuesday) September 4th at 4:00pm the district will have its second budget hearing for the 2013 budget. Following that, at 5:30pm, will be the bi-weekly board meeting. During this meeting, the superintendent will present his propaganda film on how amazingly the digital transition is going.
If you have questions about the computers, you should be there. If you have issues with the computers, you should be there. If you think the digital transition is the most amazing thing ever, you should be there. If you believe it was reckless to implement such drastic changes over the period of two months, you should be there.
If you believe that our teachers are doing an amazing job in an impossible environment, you should be there to speak for them.
The one thing that a bully fears is when those he is bullying stand up and say no more. It’s time to stand.