Monday, August 31, 2015

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

People don’t quit at CISD.  They get “let go.”

I’ve pondered this phenomenon for the last week or so, as I've heard back from teachers I worked with at CISD who stayed and who left.  The teacher turnover rate at my CISD school, hereby known as Low Expectations High, stood at more than 60 percent by May.   So each year, Low High and the rest of Crappy had to replace two-thirds of the staff.  Since we all know (or should know) that kids tend to like stability and routine, this doesn’t bode well for any campus.

Most of those teachers quit.  A handful left within the first week.  A third left at the end of the first semester.  Meanwhile, teachers dropped out here and there as they burned out or decided they’d put up with enough.  The rest of the deserters refused to re-up their contracts when the year ended. 
Only a tiny amount got fired, or their contracts weren’t renewed.  A school like Low, which is hemorrhaging teachers, can’t afford to boot out a lot.  Low High had a reputation in the area, and attracting new talent was extremely difficult.  But the administration still put out the story that each teacher that left was “let go.” 

For example, take Coach Johnson.  Coach Johnson is extremely imposing in appearance, at 6 foot 6 inches tall and 260 pounds.  If he decides to stand over a student, that student’s speech immediately begins to falter, and his/her eyes grow big and round.  Despite this, Coach Johnson is the most polite, soft-spoken and gentle man you could ever meet.  But he sure knows how to turn on the intimidation when he needs to, which helped since he oversaw ISS students and ran detention every day.

Coach Johnson left at the end of the first semester.  Like most good teachers, he could see that working at CISD was a dead end.  I’m sure Coach didn’t like his job – I wouldn’t if my job was to be in charge of behavior problems.  But he did like coaching football, and he was highly skilled at it.  Coach found a job at an organization where he would contract out to coach independent youth football leagues in different communities.  I’m sure he’s much happier now, and he didn’t leave on bad terms with the school.  Still, the school put out the story that he was fired.

That’s ridiculous, especially if you know anything about Low, Texas, and football.  Coach Johnson was a phenomenal offensive coordinator, with a wealth of experience, and Low had tried to go to state for years.  There’s no way the administration would have fired him unless they caught him with a stash of child pornography.  Everyone knows that football coaches are pretty much above the law in CISD.  If you can win games, the administration will hang on to you like grim death, or start throwing money your way if it suspects you're looking at other options.

A freshman English teacher left one morning in early February.  The students said he was fired.  But once again, I know the teacher and the real story.  Mr. Kammel, a thin, nervous, goateed, horn-rimmed glasses hipster, had only taught for two years, and he started at Low Expectations High.  He seemed nice enough, and I wondered aloud to some of my coworkers how he’d lasted here for more than a month, much less two years.

Mr. Kammel had come in before school started on a Tuesday with a note from his doctor, saying he needed to go on leave for extreme anxiety and stress.  He had left before first period started.  But the students apparently got the message from someone that he was fired, since that is the story they spread.

I’m sure it was the same when I left.  I quit, which looks bad because I’m the yearbook teacher, and it means that the new yearbook teacher will have to start from scratch like I did. But the administration probably said I was fired, so it looks like they’re in control. 

Realistically, no business can boot that many people.  A school doing that much firing has an administration that doesn't know how to hire. It says more about the principal than the teachers who leave.  No one is going to sympathize with her for having so many unreliable teachers.  I don’t get why she keeps claiming that teachers were “let go,” thinking it makes it look like the problem is the teachers, not the school.  It makes it look like Low is completely out of control, which it was, and still is.  We bled out staff like crazy, and no one tried to stop it.  If Low were a stabbing victim, blood would be pooling under his gurney while nurses yelled at him to get up and change his own damn gauze and to quit making so much noise as well.  

During the last week of school, Mrs. Gibbons, the principal, sent out an email, saying that we had eight teachers out one day, and she needed our help to cover those classes.  She was “trusting us to step up and help out because it takes a village.”   

I appreciate a good cliché as much as anyone, but I just couldn’t see the silver lining, and didn’t feel like making lemons out of lemonade.  I deleted the email, because the village was burning into the ground anyway, and she never said what the village is supposed to DO.  This villager had already loaded up her cart and was heading for the highway, waiting to flag down a passing car.
Although I'm sure the official story is that I was "let go."