Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Sour Grapes for Tuesday July 31st

Car 54 where are you?

Principally flawed
School principals have a huge and time consuming job to do. Their students think they only exist to call their parents when trouble occurs or to discipline them for real or imagined wrongdoing. Truth is a principal is required to administer a sizable group of people and see that they stay on a targeted course. (MBA) The principal has to fight in this system or any other to get and keep the amount of funds to keep the ball rolling forward. (Banker) Principals must be involved in ongoing training of classroom teachers to see that they are as fit for the job as possible. (HR consultant) They must act as arbiters between teachers and students, between students and students , between teachers and teachers and between all the above and the administration (Judge). Principals have to coordinate directly with school boards, up line administrative officials and PSS as an entity (Communications Specialist). They must constantly strive to present their school and it’s achievements in the best possible light to the parents and the community at large. (PR Maven). There are a lot more things Principals must do…parental interaction, PTA interfacing, and scores of other tasks that need prioritizing and completing in order for the school to move ahead seamlessly.

Teachers have a huge and time consuming job to do. Students sometimes think they are there solely to ruin their evenings with homework and their days with boring details that must be remembered. Teachers have a huge responsibility to teach disparate individuals with different tastes and different capabilities, subjects which they may or may not be interested in learning. (Interpretive instructor) They must somehow maintain order (now days without resort to the ruler on the knuckles). (Policeman) They must spend many hours in preparation to teach each day. (Personal Trainer) Teachers have homework to do too…papers to grade, poorly written essays to read and evaluate, etc. (Critic). Around here they must also be janitors and shoppers and repairmen for their own classrooms. There are a lot more things that teachers must do just like their administrative counterparts, the Principals. Both have more than full time jobs to do. It would take pages to describe what else teachers must do routinely.

PSS policy makers in their wisdom have now decreed that Principals will do double duty as full time teachers in addition to their regular responsibilities. This is a poorly thought out reassignment. These 20 individuals, already over taxed with work and underpaid for the effort will be able to do NEITHER job effectively if required to try to do both.

If there is a teacher shortage, so be it. Do what other school systems do worldwide in such circumstances; increase class size. It is not a great solution but it is better than marginally smaller classes taught by people too busy to do proper preparation and too preoccupied with the daily administration of their school to devote the time to individual students necessary for them to succeed. This fixes the symptom not the ailment, and does a poor job even of that.

There is a shortage of money and there will continue to be a shortage and it will probably get worse. There are several whole Departments in local government that could be closed down unmissed. Their budgets could be reprogrammed into the education system and their employees redistributed into PSS jobs going begging right now for want of money to pay for the positions. This would be a more suitable solution to the ongoing problem of short funds. Privatization would be another solution but that is a discussion for another day.

Smoke the AG?
Our attorney General is pretty darned good as appointed AGs go. At least he hasn’t called for raising Vietnamese hookers as a cash crop as his predecessor did. He seems to take his responsibility as the persecutor of those who would disobey the law pretty seriously. He seems to uphold a sense of dignity and presents a good example for our youth to follow. I think he has too many, not too few, people on his staff, but he knows the needs there better than I do.

He is being vilified by most everyone for daring to think that free speech might be a good thing. I’ve seen no evidence that he was or is taking sides on the legalize-marijuana question, yet he was represented as doing so in the press and by many of his opponents. If I understand it correctly he simply did not see it necessary to impede a conference during which people would rationally discuss legalization. I would say conferences and conventions, which bring in outside tourist dollars, are always a good thing. If the conferees want to discuss procreation of pink polo ponies in Poughkeepsie, why should we care? Let them come and talk and spend their greenbacks and enjoy our beautiful islands. We don’t have to agree to pink ponies or to maryjane or anything else in order to want attendees to visit and spend money on rooms, food and entertainment. Most destinations actively seek out convention business and build large edifices for that very purpose. We should do the same.

He was slam dunked and blindsided by the Cohen/Staymen group during testimony at the recent Senate hearings in an attempt to, what else, present the CNMI in the worst possible light so they can strip us of local governance. There is no evidence that his actions regarding Chinese asylum seekers was in any way counter to his mandate to protect the CNMI, but he was made a scapegoat by the committee nonetheless. Incidentally, how would you have him act, or how would you act yourself if you were AG and there was conflict between actions favorable to the US government or actions favorable to the people of the CNMI? I’m not saying there were conflicts in the case of asylum seekers but what if there were? Would you rather see the AG take the side of the US government to the detriment of the CNMI? Just who is he charged to protect?

I have disagreed with the way he facilitated certain appointments but that is a difference of opinion, there is certainly no malfeasance implied. He was selling a person he thought up to the task, as he should when there is a position to fill.

To claim that he interfered in the delivery of ‘some roaches’ to his girlfriend as one local paper reported is a bit silly. To claim that he was able to influence cargo arrival at all was belied by the customs officer in charge at the time who said he was not influenced by the AGs presence in any way.

Why a particular lawmaker, who drives a taxpayer paid vehicle around himself, would choose to go on and on about the short term use of a government vehicle by a new hire assistant AG is questionable in its motivation. But this too, is cited as a reason to censure Gregory. That the government paid to repair one of it’s own cars is certainly not news….except that they actually paid it timely for a change.

Now we learn that the Minority whip at the legislature wants the AG’s head on a platter for a series of imagined offenses. Not the least of which is the unmentioned opposition to some of the Minority legislator’s pet projects. A resolution has been put forward (HR15-139) calling on the Governor to waste valuable time, like the legislators in question have already done, investigating and ultimately firing Matthew Gregory. No, firing the AG is at best a red herring designed to take our eyes off of other unpleasant but unresolved matters. At worst it is a personal vendetta against a guy who has acted unfavorably to the wishes of the accusing lawmaker on more than one occasion.

Lacking any substantive evidence of real wrongdoing on the part of the AG, I think we and the Governor should ignore this bit of off base puffery and concentrate on more important, real issues, of which there are many facing us right now.

That’s all. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, (but make sure the package has that tax stamp on it)!
* * * *
Quote of the week: Methinks he doth protest too much. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) (Actually a widely used paraphrase instead of a quote).

Bruce A. Bateman writes Sour Grapes when the moon is full and the mood strikes. Stay tuned for each exciting episode.
“Yes, he is opinionated.”


BoReGo said...

The decision to relegate me and Dale to the classroom was a good spin, but the choice was our own. After being stonewalled, we looked over the student roster, the teacher pool, and we looked within. We decided that three classrooms of 35 plus kids would not do. We both have been teachers and are "highly qualified". After weeks of turmoil and negotiating with people who only crunch numbers and never place them with faces, we were told today that we indeed will not get more than our budget "affords" us.
That is an entirely different story altogether as Dale and I did some budget cuts in May only to find someone had arbitrarily slashed more from it during the summer.

Anyway, we closed one Kindergarten class (a decision that was heartbreaking by the way), a first, second, fourth and two sixths. Today we were told that we should close all our kindergarten classes to accommodate the shortage in the sixth because after all, kindergarten is not a mandated program. This is fundamentally wrong and educationally foolish.

Many more things were said that my head is still spinning. Instructional integrity at GES needs to stay in tact. We ballooned the 4th-6th grades so that we could deal with the shortage, but we will not compromise the important work of learning to read that happens in the Kinder through third grades.

The PSS District goals, to have all exiting third graders reading on grade level by the end of this year will not likely be accomplished. The goal to have all our students perform at the 50th percentile on the SAT10 in 2010 will be a challenge, as will the 2014 goal to have ALL students performing at or above grade level on our state tests. When I bring this up, the answer resounds that if we don't make it, we will have a pretty good excuse.

I am probably digging myself into a bigger hole by writing this, but I think it's apparent that I've already gotten on someone's shit list since I don't know how to keep my mouth shut when I watch students get suckered.

Dale and I will be in our classrooms Friday by choice and because it is in the best interest of students. We will run GES with a concerted team effort and do our best to administrate too.

I can fully appreciate the financial bind we are in, but looking at our school budget and how much we've saved already, I cannot swallow not being able to adequately staff our school.

Jeff said...

Boni, you need to make this a community issue. And you have the clout to do it. The people have to want to support education and pay for it. They need to demand it. There has not been any clamoring for this in the past, and as I wrote today, we as a community are failing our children stuffing them into awful faciliites while our overabundance of legislators ride around in their cars and have too much discretionary money.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

A quick trip through the phone book government pages yields enough pork pie Divisions, Departments, Agencies, Offices and Others, the dissolution of just a few of which would net enough operating capital for PSS to have all it needs and more.

As budgets get tighter, prioritizing becomes more important.

We apparently aren't hungry enough yet to begin the process.