Clue-by-Four: Ramblings of a Jock Dork

Oratory: Hitting the School Board with a ClueXFour

Posted in Clue x Fours and Other Tools of Sanity by Wingnut on July 1, 2010

Yeah. It was kinda like that.

The following is a speech I gave at the school board over the cuts in the programs at my district:

Over the past four years as an educator at BHS, the economic crisis has provided a number of teachable moments. I have helped students cope with loss as they’ve watched respected, even beloved teachers ride into the sunset or be ridden out of town on the rails of recession. I have helped students see that life is full of difficult decisions which are sometimes necessary. I have done everything possible to help them weather the storm that has threatened their future.

But what do I tell them when they ask me, “Why don’t we have a yearbook anymore Mr. H?”; “What is happening to my AP classes?”; “Why is there a waiting list for AVID?”; “Why does no one care about our future?”

For the first time in my career at BHS, I am unsure how to turn these hard lessons into a teachable moments because our students have been asked to sacrifice far too much.

This will be the first year without a publications class, without a yearbook. While I understand that it has been proposed as an “afterschool” program, the students would be most likely make such a program successful are already heavily involved academically and/or athletically.

 Is it fair to ask them to bear this new burden on their shoulders, already sagging under overloaded schedules? Is it fair to ask these same students to also run the school newspaper, another program that has sent into oblivion?

These programs provide students an opportunity to learn to work on deadline, run a business, develop a good professional work ethic, and create something that they can be proud of. Each year, there are students who begin to make more positive choices because of these programs. Yearbook alone had over 100 students, many of them seniors, who wanted to be a part of the program. That’s about 8% of the student population who wanted to create something through this flourishing program.

How about incoming 9th graders who cannot get into the AVID program because there aren’t enough sections to accommodate them? Last I heard, over 40 students that registered for AVID could not be placed in the 9/10 combination class. What happened to “students first”?

The new board members and their supporters have talked about increasing the graduation rates at BHS.. How does decreasing the availability of AVID positively impact graduation rates? How is this “students first?”

How does cutting AP classes improve number of students who attend four-year universities? Department chairs had to fight the district tooth-and-nail to keep some of the other AP classes open. Yet, with the way things are going, there is no guarantee that they won’t be cut in the future. Many enrolled in the Mt. SAC program this summer so that they could participate in programs that they just recently found out were cut. One student who is sitting in the audience tonight said to me, “So, everything we are doing in this class is for nothing? “

And what of the students who need the most help, those in the Read 180/Double Block program. These students are far below grade level in their reading skills. How are we serving them? We’ve transferred their teacher to the middle school and dropped the program. That’s right, dropped the program. In the past, if you couldn’t read and you came to Bassett, it used to be, “No problem. We will teach you. You can learn!” Now it’s simply, “Too bad. Teaching you to read is not fiscally responsible.”

I guess this is the lesson of this moment in our district’s history. The efforts we put forth to climb the ladder toward a successful future are, in the end, potentially futile because others will steal all the rungs from  the ladder.

Never fear. Students are already talking about leaving the district, or, since CIF and other activities bind them to this campus, convincing their siblings and relatives to seek their education elsewhere. If we keep cutting programs, our students will begin to flee the impending tsunami that threatens their ability to get a quality education.

There is one last lesson to be learned from this moment. I have been assured by many of them that they will, very soon, be of voting age and that, in their opinion, none of the five people sitting before me has lived up to any of the promises that they have made. It will be at that point where the students will teach you the harsh realities of the decisions you make right now.

Huh, I guess this was a teachable moment after all.

Commentary: My colleagues and students in attendence were very appreciative of the words I spoke on their behalf. One student even referred to me in her own scathing speech to the board. She said that she was angry the school had laid me off because I was a man she looked up to.

I am so proud of these kids.

Moral: Lay me off…but don’t MESS WITH MY STUDENTS!

UPDATE: So, the board decided to replace almost all the classes and programs that they eliminated. Funny how that works!


4 Responses

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  1. Lisa said, on July 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Well said. I hope that ClueXFour you hit the school board with left them a few splinters for thought.

  2. Something She Dated said, on July 7, 2010 at 1:40 am

    That’s fantastic that your school had a special program designed specifically towards helping kids learn to read (and I love the attitude “No problem. We will teach you. You can learn!”)…but I can’t lie…my real thoughts are “No problem. We will teach you. You can learn…oh yeah and we plan to sterilize your parents as they are clearly a fucking disgrace for allowing you to get to highschool age without the simplest skills required).

    Sucks about your layoff…but proud moment with that student…not only to have a student demonstrate that you taught her something valuable by her relaying that to the board…but the fact that you had a student stand up for anything is a pretty huge feat in and of itself…A+

    • theteacher174 said, on July 7, 2010 at 6:55 pm

      Well, to be fair, some of their parents are non-English speakers or non-existant parents [as in jailed or in Mexico somewhere].

  3. KT said, on July 13, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Wow. What a speach. I was very moved and honestly very angry on the behalf of these kids. Well said!

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