To Principal Biancalana:
DIVIDE AND CONQUER: BURY TEACHERS IN BUSYWORK
KEEP THE PARENTS ANNOYED
From: Goodman [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, October 05, 2001 12:53 AM
To: Sanchez, Steven, STATE DEPARTMENT
Subject: Los Lunas Schools chaos
I spoke to ******** last night. I hope **** had time to contact you. ****, like most of the teachers in this district, is very disturbed about the actions of our administrators. All of the teachers are especially upset about being told to write out every standard and every benchmark for every lesson for every day. I told them that I had spoken to you, and such nonsense is not state mandated. I spoke to schools in Artesia, Albuquerque, Mountainair, and to Mayfield High. No principal is requesting such a waste of time. However, our teachers are all too frightened to speak up, and are so hopeful that the visit from the State Dept. of Ed. will result in changes. I will be fired in about a month, three months short of my earliest allowed retirement. It is a foregone conclusion, although the final inquisition has not yet been held. I am being used as an example to other employees in the district. We have lost 13 teachers at the high school since April, including Marsha. She can vouch for my honesty. We have been friends for 14 years. My classes have not had a teacher all year. Whatever warm body is available baby-sits my classes. Parents did not know until I started making calls this week. They promise to be at next week's meeting, but I am not counting on it. I have been told that cafeteria workers in this district haven't received their 8% raise yet. One of the workers tried to organize all cafeteria staff to investigate, but terror won out. Many of them do not speak English, and they are very intimidated by administrators, as are Mexican national students at the high school. I have sealed my fate by speaking to parents and to so many of you, but something must be done. I will never understand why board members, parent, administrators, teachers, and students can't work together for education. We should be able to sit at a round table as equals, sharing ideas and concerns. We could call it PIE, for Partners in Education! Ha! Mr. Burnett and Mr. Henington would rather die that speak to teachers as equals. And we are told that we should NEVER speak to board members! Thank you for listening. Darlene Goodman
I just want to update you on SIPS (A process designed to match the curriculum to state goals - this process had been expanded far beyond the expectations of the state based on reports from other districts and teachers were severely stressed.) in relation to our conversation after our April staff meeting at which time I expressed concern that our grade level had at least 21 - 24 hours of work to complete before the results were due on June 2. At that time you stated that I must be miscalculating what was expected and you indicated that partial paragraphs that still needed to be typed were acceptable. (I had thought we needed finished forms at that time.) I have just completed those quick, "messy" paragraphs for my share of fourth grade SIPS due this year (we split the three subjects up so that we could work independently) and I have spent 14 hours plus. They were quickly and somewhat messily done to expedite the process. My estimate of seven - eight hours per fourth grade teacher was considerably low and you had thought it was high.
Furthermore, this amount of work is simply what was left after having put in many, many hours previously. This was in addition to time spent administering and grading assessments throughout the year. I have kept up with these duties diligently all year. Considering that I work a minimum of 55 hours per week on regular classroom issues, this has compromised my ability to be effective in the classroom. As you know, I am willing to work hard and have done so throughout my years at Avoca. However, I believe the excessive nature of this assignment impacts on my primary mission as a teacher and that the Board needs to know the real extent of this demand on the teachers, particularly in light of the desire to include PEP (gifted program) in the classroom. Because you were so certain that this assignment was far less time consuming, I would assume the Board reflects that thinking. I am writing this to inform you of the actual time involved so more realistic plans can be made for the remainder of the SIPS. I hope that you can help control the workload so as to help us continue to be effective teachers in the classroom. Would you please share this information with the Board so that it will impact on their decision making both in terms of SIPS or any other additional duties such as enrichment that they expect teachers to have time to complete? I appreciate your assistance in this matter since I want to continue to be an effective teacher and I am aware that this increased responsibility for the former PEP students will consume additional time next year. As a member of the PEP Review Committee, I want to assure the success of our new program, assuming it is put into place as per our recommendations.
Two teachers, thousands of miles from each other, no knowledge of the other, six years apart in time, desperate to make teaching a profession that can work in terms of meeting the needs of children and parents, unaware that it is hopeless.
Note that Goodman, in 2001, knew she would be crucified for making this protest, whereas Horwitz in 1995, naively thought she was working in a democracy where professionalism reigned and the principal cared that the working conditions were reasonable and appropriate for the sake of the children. When the principal said her door was always open, Horwitz didn't realize it was a trap door to oblivion. She wrote her principal in good faith that she would want to make things right. Goodman had given up on her principal even before he had assaulted her and was writing the state department for help sounding like a drowning person grasping for any means to save her teaching life.
In Horwitz's case, the fourth grade SIPS program had 288 assessments, or tests, that had to be administered to their students, recorded, justified with a short paragraph describing the type of assessment, and completed in less that five weeks. The administration of the tests was supposed to have been completed throughout the 180 school days. You do the math - 288 assessments in 180 days. When would the teaching have occurred? Then in late April, when the teachers still hadn't figured out how they were going to administer all the tests, the administration suddenly directed the teachers to compose rationale and descriptor paragraphs for each of the 288 tests, and compile all of the above information by June 2.
Horwitz later discovered that when an assignment was impossible to complete, most teachers handed in whatever as it was all a big pretense anyway and no one would ever look at it. They knew better than to make an inquiry, with an underlying assumption that they had any power. They knew their place and they were in the cotton field, not in a profession.
However, Horwitz hadn't been indoctrinated into this world of smoke and mirrors and thought teachers were supposed to operate with integrity. So she tried to make sense out of a Twilight Zone type assignment, and more than likely this letter sealed her fate. Less than a week later, Horwitz was called into Biancalana's office and read a list of deficiencies on her part, most of which were factually incorrect, some of which were blatant lies, and all of which were mean spirited. Horwitz was deficient, however. She didn't know about lying, pretending to do an assignment, functioning like a Stepford wife, or operating with no ethics. She did not fit in, and had yet to learn that everything she had ever heard about desiring good teachers, needing teachers to be decision makers and the calling of this profession was baloney. She was simply supposed to keep her mouth shut, do what she was told or pretend to do what she was told, or she would be out of there. It did not matter if the children's needs were met. It was the administrators' needs for power that counted. It didn't take long for administrators to know which teachers were not going to cut it - those idealistic types who still thought you were supposed to do things the right way.
Meanwhile, the teachers who tried their best to follow orders and do the work hurled at them while hiding their angst, often disappointed parents when their time was allocated to this busywork and their attitude was contaminated by their disgust with the system. That was good for BUSINESS AS USUAL. It annoyed parents.