Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Dead Bloggin'" at the APS Board Candidate Forum

I just got back from attending an hour or so of the APS Board District #1/#4 Candidate Forum at Highland High School. I had some crazy plan to "Live Blog" the event, forgetting that Highland HS has a computer network from the days of Marconi and Tesla. Nothing ruins a candidate forum like an inability to check ones Gmail every twenty to thirty seconds.

Despite the antiquated tech setup and a general bad community college classroom look at the HHS "Lecture Hall", I stuck around and took a few notes. I'm tempted just to copy/paste the prose-less notes directly into this post as a sort of litera-verite style that provides a pseudo-hip, groovy cover to the simple fact that I'm too tired and lazy to spend much time grinding my insipid notes into paragraphs. Sadly the notes are too insipid for such new-wave journalism...besides they include little petty jabs at the candidates, jabs that provided necessary entertainment for me while I watched the forum wi-fi-less, but would only serve here to show how fundamentally infantile is the mind of your humble blogger.

So I'll compromise by just making a few points from the forum:

  • The forum was attended by District #1 candidates Dolores Griego and Richard Sanchez (Cecilia C. DeBaca didn't make it) and District #4 candidates Pauline Nunez, Vanessa Alarid, Marty Esquivel, John Edward and Charles MacQuigg. Ms. Alarid had to leave immediately after her opening statement due to a death in the family.
  • There were roughly 75, maybe 100 people in the audience. About 74-99 of them were middle aged. Many were on the back nine of middle age, some nearing the 18th green.
  • School board elections are refreshing in a way in that they feature candidates who are generally unpolished. The only one of the seven present tonight that seemed to have any real "I could be running for NM-1 instead" slickness was Marty Esquivel. Relative to the others Esquivel was friggin' John Edwards meets Barack Obama. I found myself asking almost out loud: "Hey Marty Esquivel, why didn't YOU run against Heather Wilson?" At the same time, Esquivel's slickness was almost unsettling at times in a milieu that featured the the folksiness of Charles Macquigg and South Valley "we suck" fatalism of Richard Sanchez and Dolores Griego.
  • Speaking of Charles Macquigg, I'm guessing about half the audience only showed up on the chance that Macquigg would sound as obtusely semi-sane as his web postings and comments might make him appear. That half the audience must have been disappointed, as the guy sounded anything but crazy. Slightly conspiratorial at times, but understandable and restrained. It must be said that Macquigg's look and demeanor did remind your humble blogger at times of a sober Foster Brooks, or Lee Marvin in "Paint Your Wagon". In fact, I would not at all been surprised if Macquigg had broken into a rendition of "I Was Born Under a Wandering Star" at some point in the festivities.
  • As a District #1 resident myself, I couldn't help feeling that District #4 gets all the best candidates. This feeling only increased every time that Richard Sanchez opened his mouth.
  • Dolores Griego sounded better than Sanchez, but she too exhibited that South Valley Fatalism (Trademark Pending), complete with woeful tales about drop-outs and poverty without much in the way of solutions. It was almost as if District #1 was in a completely different city/district/state/nation than District #4.
  • Interestingly, there wasn't really much in the way of philosophical differences between any of the candidates, at least in the context of the questions asked at the forum for the time I stuck around. They all hate NCLB. They all think the District has been run poorly. Drop-outs are a big problem. Middle School sucks. Mars needs women.
  • What differences exist seem to be those held by District 4 candidate Pauline Nunez and the rest of the District 4 candidates. Namely, Nunez says she wants to work with Mayor Marty on school reform issues (although she opposes the idea of Marty appointing three school board members). The other candidates for District #4 and #1 were more vehement in opposing Chavez and at least one said something about "the Mayor breathing down our necks".
  • Nunez also was more pro-charter school than most of the others, but to be honest none of the candidates came off as really anti-charter. Marty Esquivel pointed out the possible financial millstone caused by state legislation mandating that charters must be in public building by 2010. He threw a figure of $350 million out as the cost of implementing such a plan. Others like John Edward disagreed with the size of the figure. Generally it was more of a charter school love-fest, with Dolores Griego talking about her kid at a charter and Pauline Nunez (the designated by many pro-charter candidate) praising charters and making her voice really loud as she proclaimed she doesn't want to "pit kids against kids".
  • I did notice that when saying "pitting kids against kids" Nunez voice got really booming loud. Like she was at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver instead of the Highland High School "Lecture Hall". Really loud. Far louder than the polite just-past-golf clap reply to this booming oration.
  • I left after almost an hour and a half, and there might have been really good questions and answers after 8:00...but I somehow doubt it. Of course if I missed the "good part", I hope someone who stuck around will let me know.
All in all, I'm glad Highland HS put together the forum and I was glad I attended the thing. It was good to put faces to candidate names, and I even got to talk to one of them (Edward) for a bit before things began. I also got to experience that "small town" of teaching feel by seeing several ex-colleagues, parents and other acquaintances I hadn't seen in a while. The drab lecture room had a pleasant, if distinctly middle aged, vibe.

Still, outside of the pleasant warm feeling of having participated in an aspect of democracy in action, I'm not sure much really happened at the APS Board candidate forum tonight. Truth be told, I'm almost quite certain nothing of real import did. The candidates threw some philosophical pennies into the ocean of problems in public education. Those pennies looked a lot alike and were generally the same size. The ocean was unmoved.

Remember to vote for one of those pennies on February 6th. You can also vote to renew a mill-levy for another $157 million over six years.

--For Molly. R.I.P.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Work Here...Well, Really You Do

Is it me or is education coverage getting better in the local papers? The Trib has a story yesterday about the woeful pay for school administrators (principals/asst. principals) and how rises in teacher salaries have principals jumping admin ship and going back to the classroom in droves.

It's something we in the biz have been talking about for some time, and it's good to see these real news stories coming out from the teacher's lounge (btw, very, very few teachers ever hit the "teacher's lounge" anymore) and into public view. I won't regurgitate the story...just go read it, and will only add a point or two to the simple fact that experienced teachers now get paid as much or more than they did as principals.

Scot's additional points:

  • Being a Principal or Assistant Principal is an incredibly sucky job. Yes "sucky" is a term we teaching professionals use when discussing serious matters such as administrative pay scales;
  • Reasons for why the job sucks would take up about six blog pages, but include: long hours, an onerous, confused district, whiny teachers who are themselves insane, parents who don't care or care way too much about the wrong things, inadequate budgets, standardized testing and media outlets which misinterpret standardized test scores, and little or no contact with the classroom and direct teaching, which is what got the person into the K-12 profession to begin with;
  • In other words, nobody in their right mind would become a principal or assistant principal these days, and we haven't even mentioned the pay yet;
  • Some principals and assistant principals around the district are not in their right minds, but you'd go crazy too if you had to be a school principal;
  • So what we have here is a job that will drive you crazy if you aren't already crazy for seeking it in the first place;
  • Scot is very lucky and works with consummately competent, sane, dedicated administrators at his school;
  • Scot is not kidding about the competence of his admin staff, or the fact that he metaphorically kisses the ground everyday in thanks that his admin staff isn't crazy, or even worse, intrusive;
  • This has not always been the case in Scot's teaching career, and his experiences with off-kilter administrators are the source of tons of funny and/or horrific stories that he will not tell now, or probably ever;
  • Believe me...they're funny and horrific. Okay, maybe they're mainly horrific.
You're probably thinking you have the answer to the increasing principal shortage: raid local insane asylums. I kid, of course. Instead you're probably agree with Rep. Mimi Stewart (a teacher herself) that we need to pay school administrators more, enough for them to get past the fact that the job sucks and they would be crazy to do it. Realistically, I'd say you'd have to pay roughly $250,000 a year to make me forget the whole suck/crazy thing. But I'm not as financially desperate as some.

Which gets to a more serious proposal: find financially desperate teachers and make them principals. Do a little private investigation work and identify teachers with massive gambling problems, crippling alimony and exorbitantly high college tuition for their prima donna children. Offer these cases another $10,000 a year over their teaching salaries and they'll be jumping on these admin jobs like leftover doughnuts in the teacher's lounge.

Otherwise, the district and state are going to have to cough up tons more money to overcome the stink of the admin gig. Six figures minimum. And while I'm kidding about much of the above, I'm not kidding about that dollar amount. The job of principal/asst. principal is so wildly less desirable than a teaching job that it can't even be mentioned in the same universe of pay scale thought. It's a ridiculous situation that admin pay raises haven't kept up with those of teachers. One might even say it's crazy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Playing Catch-Up With the News

A few things I missed during my back-tooth-influenza "perfect storm o' ailments" period last week (actually these three things still persist, but I don't want to talk about it anymore).

Robert Vigil: 37 months in the federal pokey for the ex-State Treasurer. Not quite the sentence I had in mind (placed in a 6 foot paper bag from Quarters' BBQ next to a side of potato salad for five years), but enough to make several folks happy, including giddy lead prosecutor Jonathan Gerson. Gerson and Co. get to save some face, and that small band of blog readers who constantly search for Vigil stories are probably stoked. For some reason, Vigil seems to have reached a low form of Internet cult status. I can't speak for other bloggers, but the number of Vigil "hits" from obscure points around the world is remarkably high.

Bill Richardson: Is still running for President. In other breaking news: hockey is violent, Jews and Palestinians are having conflicts, and whiskey costs money.

CNM (really it's still TVI) Board Elections: Yes, CNM really is having Board Elections. Why? I don' t know. Maybe Marty Chavez could practice up for taking over the APS Board with a few appointments to the CNM Board. What could it hurt? What on Earth do these people do besides decide to change the school's name from time to time? The Trib has this cool video page up with interviews of the APS & CNM Board candidates. It's like YouTube, but even more boring than the real YouTube. Check them out just for the YouTube quality two-camera shoot approach used with Robert Lucero. Tell me Lucero doesn't look just like Sterling Hayden in "Dr. Strangelove" with that low camera-angle look. Stick a cigar in his mouth and Lucero IS a delusional psychopath intent on destroying the world. Well, maybe you don't need to cigar for that.

The New Mexico Legislature: Yes, they are technically in session. No, they haven't done anything over the first two weeks. Yes, they are only working four-day weeks. No, one shouldn't infer from working four-day weeks that there isn't a concerted effort for the Legislature to do as little as possible. Yes, the Ledge still has a "Capital Outlay Request Form" webpage...all you need is your Legislator's signature. No, Legislators haven't done a thing regarding my proposal that all NM teachers receive a briefcase full of $100 bills. Yes, I am serious about the proposal....I understand the bills need to be non-consecutive (at least that's what the bank robbers in the movies tell me).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Today in Your ABQ Journal...

We all give the Journal a hard time, but this morning Toby Smith has a rollicking good read about a couple of folks bilking out-of-state hunter wannabes out of tons of money in little 'ol Glenwood. That the scam artists were women only adds to the allure. In fact, the story is so good that I bet 1/2 of those reading it immediately start thinking about turning it into a book and/or movie. Hopefully, Mr. Smith is one of those folks.

Smith's story was not the only worthwhile thing in today's "fishwrap". Amy Miller has a profile of APS Board candidate Charles MacQuigg. Ms. Miller's story has the unfortunate headline "Hopeful an APS Board Critic", missing Miller's attention to MacQuigg's litigious nature during his spotty career as a APS shop teacher. I'll have more on Mr. Macquigg later this week, after I get to check out that candidate's forum at Highland HS on Tuesday.

Lastly, anyone accusing the Journal of being anti-Richardson should be forced at gunpoint to read the entire "It's Official: Richardson is in..." series. Okay, that's a harsh penalty, Eight Amendment to the Constitution and all that. What overkill, what a waste of newspaper space, what the Hell?

I'll be the first to admit I haven't read more than about ten words of the mondo-package o' stories, but couldn't Journal honchos have spent a little less time/money/space pumping out "Richardson has a mole on his butt" copy, and more on those hunter defrauding women in Glenwood?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

You Think The State Of The Union Speech Hurt, Well...

I have found that the best way to treat lingering lower back pain is to have some dental surgery. Get a root canal and you barely even notice how painful it is to get out of bed or bend down to pick up a dropped pencil. Not to mention the percocets.

Babble is playing (poorly) through a bit o' pain these days, spicing up the rare colder-than-normal last month with some jackhammering in my mouth and the intermittent feeling of a knife going in at the base of the spine.

Not that you'll hear me complaining or writing any blog entries about it. No sir-ree. I admit it, I have a pain threshold below "low" and only a smidge above "nonexistent". I am and will not be a good candidate for any brave patient awards during the remainder of my increasingly pain-filled life.

Not wishing to be construed as gender-bashing in any way, I am, in short, quite bitchy right now.

Not that you should care, and I apologize if you have happened across today's blog entry expecting, uh, anything...anything whatsoever beside me pointing out fascinating insights like "root canals start to hurt a few hours after you have one". I award material that.

Before closing this pathetic entry in order to head off to work and a chance to inflict my sparkling mood on the middle schoolers of America, I do have an education question of sorts. I received some information about tonight's APS School Board Forum, namely that the small uptown room it is to be held in is "sold out" as it were, and that I won't be able to get in the door. Is this true? And more importantly, does this provide me with the excuse to not attend the thing, and instead lie on the couch watching Top Chef while under the influence (totally prescribed, of course) of percocet?

Seriously, any info on tonight's Forum shindig would be most appreciated. I would call APS to get details, but gathering information via APS is not one of the district's strong suits. In fact, even visualizing a scenario in which one tries to get info by calling APS puts a big smile on my face. And it's hurts to smile this morning. Gotta stop smiling. No smiling today.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday Morning Capote-talk

I tried yesterday. As a bona fide male of the American species, I sat down to watch me some NFL playoff football and validate my existence on the high end of the testosterone scale. I wanted to share in the collective sports-watching experience, able to bat observations around this morning at work with fellow NFL-heads and cocoon in the communal TV-glow of millions and millions of Americans.

I ended up watching "Breakfast at Tiffany's" instead.

Yes, it was Audrey Hepburn for me, despite the fact the Bears/Saints game met my specific conditions for being interested in watching an NFL game:

  1. Played on grass field
  2. Snowing
Using these interest criteria, the Colts/Patriots game was right out. Oh, I'd keep track of the sports news in order to be able to tell colleagues this morning "hey, some Colts game last night, huh?", but actual viewing was unthinkable. Domed stadiums, football?

So it was Bears/Saints or bust, and despite the lack of snow early on at Soldier Field, I spent the first thirty minutes or so splitting time between the execrable Fox football coverage and Turner Classic Movies. Then I noticed myself watching more and more of George Peppard in uber-early 1960s ties, Audrey Hepburn gamely trying to seem amoral and Patricia Neal all dressed up in post-Eisenhowerian middle age moral ambiguity and less and less of Rex Grossman and Drew Brees.

By the 2nd half of the game, where the snow was really flying, I'd almost exclusively switched to the 2nd and 3rd acts of "B@Ts". And I don't even like the movie as a movie. Watching "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is rather great only as a sociological viewing experiences, an insight into a mythical late 50s, early 60s life in Manhattan to which I find myself unnaturally drawn.

I almost hate to admit it, but I'd rather be George Peppard than Rex Grossman. Does that make me less of anything that I need to care about?

Let's face it, I'm a baseball guy. I like history, I like statistics. NFL football isn't about those things, even or especially when it tries to talk up the positive impact the Saints are having on life in New Orleans. Football, NFL Football, is just plain boring.

Audrey Hepburn is anything but boring, even when she's not really convincing anybody she could ever be a call-girl. Audrey Hepburn is baseball. NFL football is Angelina Jolie. No contest.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Reflection Upon The Growing Number of Presidential Candidates

Like some old girlfriend who you kicked out of the house but keeps calling from the homeless shelter that "you're all that I've got", Americans are faced with another batch of folks who want us to care that they are running for President. President in 2009. Taking office in January, 2009, almost exactly two years from now.

Well, I say to these candidates: go away.

I will care about the 2008 Presidential race when I am good and well ready. I will care about the 2008 Presidential race when it suits me. I will care about the 2008 Presidential race in...uh, 2008 maybe?

The State of Nevada has scheduled a series of 2008 race "forums" starting on February 21st. No, not February 21st, 2008. Next month. 30 days from now. I urge, implore and scream in an almost inaudibly high-pitched voice that everyone ignore these Nevada "forums". Prove to the media and campaigns that it is possible to care about things political without having to wrap an election into it. Prove that issues matter more than the sycophantic, swarmy egocentric glorified yahoos that want us to replace our complex preferences with a simplistic choice between tweedledee and tweedledum.

And don't even get me started on "Iowa" and "New Hampshire". Don't...I'm warning you.


P.S.: I checked out various possible Richardson for President websites, and it's "". The site has a richly orchestrated video about the "New Mexico Comeback". Basically, Richardson is selling himself by crowing about how awful and terrible New Mexico was before he became Governor. Third-world kinda awful and terrible. Thank Bejeezus for Bill, we were all living in cardboard boxes and eating bugs and pine needles before he came along.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Big Bag of Money With a $ Sign On It Will Do

A brief story in this morning's Journal (viewing of vapid "Parade Magazine" ad required) recaps Our Current Governor(TM)'s proposal to pay teachers extra to work in "failing schools" and remote parts of the state. While I still like the briefcase full of $100 bills initiative I brought up in my last post better, OCG's idea is a start (okay, we know it wasn't OCG's idea exactly, but he will get and take credit in the next few months for every invention since the kiva and Roman aqueducts).

The proposal, and the brevity of the Journal story, make it unclear exactly which schools would be lousy and undesirable enough to participate in such a plan, but I'm guessing the South Valley ABQ schools near my house (Harrison MS, Polk MS, and Ernie Pyle MS in particular) would be prime targets of such a plan. Anyone who has ever checked out the APS "careers" page online knows that any even remotely sentient creature with a Special Education teaching certificate could walk off the street any day of the week and get a job at these schools. Any day of the week. My guess is that the eventual NM plan will include extra-special bonus incentives for SpEd and Math/Science, just as these ideas always seem to do.

The more important question this morning is dropping a new moniker on OCG. I've used "Our Current Governor" for about 20 minutes now, and it's not working. "Big Bill" is taken, and is old and stale. Deliberate pseudo-cool misspellings like "Guvernator" are not only extremely lame, but also bring to mind the Governor in California instead of Richardson. And just saying "Governor Richardson" is boring and misses out on the opportunity to create a nickname for the guy that combines the plenitude of positive and negative attributes the dude possesses. Not to mention the he's so out of here to run for President angle.

I'm all ears on the question. If you have a good name for the guy (and let's show a little more sophistication than "Big Evil Guy" or "The Next President of the United States" here), throw it my way through either comment or email.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

NM Legislature '07: An Early Suggestion and Art Critique

Two quick things as I am able to briefly sit between back spasms at my anti-ergonomic computer chair:

1. I've had a chance to only glance at some of the numbers being thrown around for education in this year's NM Legislative session. It's too early in the 60 days and we're seeing a bewildering number of proposals/dollars, so I'll make it simple at this point: hand every K-12 teacher in New Mexico a briefcase full of non-consecutive $100 bills and nobody gets hurt. And not one of those skinny, ultra-stylish ones. A fat one, with gold light that shines out of it like in "Pulp Fiction". We teachers will take it from there.

2. Below is a promotional graphic from the anti-cockfighting lobby group "":

Click on the picture to see the larger version. Is it just me or is this one of the lamest graphics/ad campaigns ever? I'm all for stopping cockfighting, but I've seen 6th grade "arts & crafts" class clay ashtrays that were more skillfully done.

As anyone who reads this blog can quickly discern, I have the visual aesthetics sensibility of a color-blind goat farmer. I can go months existing in a room and not even notice what objects have been on the walls the entire time. Yet, even I can tell there is somewhere wrong here. Maybe it's the baby-puke yellow. Or the beyond-crudely drawn chickens with ill-chosen names.

And didn't the creators of "" realize that one can easily think the organization is "will the fight goon?" and believe the site has something to do with an unfinished comment about hockey fight goons? Will the fight goon get five minutes for fighting? Will the fight goon get a fine from the NHL for that brutal crosscheck against the Habs last Tuesday?

Okay, time to get out of the anti-ergonomic computer chair and down another year's supply of ibuprofen. Just thinking about a crosscheck puts my back into spasm at this point.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Twisted Ways Are Still "Ways of Life" Ain't They?

Ronald Barron of Artesia isn't only a defender of cockfighting, he's today's winner of the "Stupid Quote of the Day Using Specious Logic Award":

"Way out of bounds," said Barron, president of the New Mexico Gamefowl Breeders Association. "I don't see that it's right to make felons out of people who have made it their livelihood, their sport, their way of life, for many, many years."--Quote in Albuquerque Journal, 1/16/06

Oh, the "way of life" of my favorites. Let's apply it to other "ways of life":

  • "Around these parts we've been beating our wives for generations now, and ain't no two-bit Guvnor gonna stop us men expressing ourselves."
  • "We've been drinking 27 beers and driving the wrong way down the Interstate for as long as I can remember."
  • "The Klan is as important a part of the South as grits and college football. Ain't nobody got a right to mess with it."
  • "Hunting buffalo is such great sport, especially this new way where we just force them all to jump off a cliff, well, the ones we don' t shoot on the way to the cliff."
  • "We Spanish have found the best way to deal with Injuns is to chop their hands and feet off and throw 'em off the edge of town. Well, that and just torturing them. We've been doing it for years now."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Worlds of Education Going Bump In the Night

(Note to Readers: The following is being written while the humble blogmaster winces in back pain from a previously mentioned spine tweakage, AND grimaces in overly dramatic pain from having two temporary fillings put in one side of his mouth...temporary because he has been told that these particular teeth are at a "crossroads" at the corner of Root Canal Boulevard and Shiny Crown Avenue)

I'm at a potentially dangerous crossroads when it comes to this whole "focus on education" thing. A crossroads. The apex of a slippery slope. The sudden movement at the top of the avalanche, an avalanche that will very likely throw me off the mental highway, engulf my heretofore intact psyche and leave me helplessly disoriented, encased in miles and miles of white, cold bureaucracy.

I am considering actually caring who wins the APS School Board elections.

In fact, I'm even thinking of attending the League of Women's Voters APS Board Candidates Forum, something I would normally never think of doing. I'd never think of inflicting it on my worst enemy. I'd be hesitant to even force Hitler or that Saddam Hussein brother who got hung and had his head fly off today to attend one of these things.

Yet, I'm thinking about going. More precisely, I'm NOT thinking about going, because if I thought about it for one second I'd come to my senses and avoid the teacher "When World's Collide" scenario.

As teachers we have our own little world, the one I like to call "the box". This is the little world of our classroom, a fiefdom where we teachers are the feudal lords (vassals if you really want to get feudalism technical), ruling with a firm, yet forgiving hand over all we survey. We're in control to the point that we decide things like whether the lights are on or off, or even whether our "peasants" can see the outside world at all through the small window in the classroom door.

Then there is the world outside "the box". This is the world of staff meetings, in-service days and "the District". This world is like the area on those old maps where the flat Earth ended and there were sharks and guys with pitchforks waiting to catch the unfortunates who fell off. Veering anywhere close to this world is very, very dangerous, and most teachers who go there end up bloody, mumbling mental cases from the repeated sensation of smashing one's head against a jagged brick wall over and over and over and over again.

It's just better to stay in "the box", and just about all teachers have enough sense to realize that and act accordingly. Now, I'm wondering if I losing what smidgen is left of my mind because I'm feeling drawn somehow toward the Earth's edge that would be the League of Women Voters APS School Board Candidates Forum. A forum with people like current School Board member Robert Lucero. A forum packed to the castle turrets with fanatically involved constituent groups all bent on promulgating their own microscopically narrow view about what K-12 education should be.

Someone please wake me up and bring me to my senses.

As the Albuquerque Public School website is one of the worst Java hell-holes in all Internetland, I can't just link to the press release, but for who share my growing unhealthy fascination with the World of "the District", etc., here are the details for this morbidly enticing meeting....

Albuquerque Public Schools will hold a forum for candidates for the APS Board of Education at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the APS Building, located at 6400 Uptown Blvd. NE.
The forum will be moderated by the League of Women Voters.
“This is a great opportunity for the community to hear the views and opinions of those running for the Albuquerque Public Schools’ Board of Education,” said Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Everitt. “Each candidate will be given time for an opening statement, they will then answer questions from the community, and then will give a closing statement.”
According to the Bernalillo County Clerk, currently there are three candidates in District 1, located in the south valley of Albuquerque. They are: Cecilia C de Baca, Dolores Griego, and Richard Sanchez.
There are two candidates in District 2, located in Albuquerque’s west side. They are: Cynthia Jones and Robert Lucero, who is an incumbent.
There are five candidates in District 4, located in the downtown and University area of Albuquerque. They are: Vanessa Alarid, John Edward, Martin Esquivel, Charles MacQuigg, and Pauline Nuñez.
“We encourage the citizens of Albuquerque to attend this very important and informative meeting,” added Everitt.

Please, I'm beggin' ya, stop me from attending this any way you can. Tranquilizer darts would be a good choice...and could also serve to provide temporary relief from the tooth and back pain. Coating the darts in vicodin would be especially nice.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mother Nature Update

A growing feeling of near-unlimited power was sweeping over me the last 36 hours or so, as it appeared my previous post asking Mother Nature to go ixsnay on the oisturemay was getting results in the Burque metro area. Outside of a few sprinkles, no new precipitation, just growing lakes of melted snow. And all I did was ask...

Then I threw my back out chasing after a goat this morning. As regular readers know, we have two goats on our fringeurban excuse of a "farm". Petunia, the , uh, ur, obese white goat that serves as mascot for this blog, and Hershey, the spry skinny chocolate-brown animal that serves as comic relief with its energetic head-flopping joyful skips at feeding time.

This morning, I decide to grab Hershey and swing her out of a stall, and I hear this little popping sound at the base of my spine. Feelings of almost-unlimited power seeping away. I stagger painfully amid the growing lakes of melted snow back to the house, and fall helplessly into my computer chair.

I may be in this chair for a while.

Just when you're feeling omnipotent, forces conspire to knock ya on your ass. It's just like that Icarus thing with the wax wings and all, but with goats and lower back problems.

Well, it was a nice feeling while it lasted. And now I notice a few sprinkles hitting the nearby window as I sit trapped in this chair. I really wish those Greeks hadn't invented that whole "hubris" concept....

P.S.: Oh yeah, I keep forgetting this is supposed to be an "education blog" now. Did you see that TV news story on the leaky roofs at Del Norte HS and how repairs will cost $2.5 million? $2.5 million. And that's one school. I noticed a Journal story a few days back with a short list of other schools with roof problems and repair costs estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars, but I'm still guessing the overall APS bill from the storm will eventually be revealed as a staggering sum. One of those continuing stories where the amount keeps climbing, emergency funds are exhausted, multiple levels of government become involved and someone ends up being convicted of embezzling a huge wad of cash from the newly created repair accounts.

Just a hunch.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Open Letter to Big Momma From Certain NM Residents

Dear Mother Nature:

We, the undersigned have leaky roofs due to that lovely snowfall you orchestrated a couple of weeks ago. We are thankful for the beauty of the snow and the badly needed precipitation, but we now hear of another storm bringing more moisture, moisture that will very possibly end up on the floor of our kitchens, bathrooms and workspaces.

We, the undersigned, acknowledge that we can't seem to make up our minds because we've been begging you for precipitation for years now. But do you think you could give us a miss this go-round?

Or how about this? You figure out a way to form storm clouds three feet above the ground (below roof level) and you can have it rain/snow all you want. Manufacture the deluge/blizzard of your Winter dreams. Knock yourself out. No problem, and no complaints from us. Honest.

As mentioned above, we're really sorry to throw these nitpicky special requests at you, but we're all just sitting here tonight looking at weather forecasts and radar websites while counting up how many buckets, pots and pans we have around the house to catch invading plops of water. A little understanding and mojo on your end would be ever so nice. So nice we promise we'll be more careful and stop invading your creative space with all this global warming stuff.



Owners of Flat-Roof Houses Throughout Central and Northern New Mexico

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The "Aristocrats" of Education: Teacher Education Programs

If you ever want to get a hearty chuckle out of an experienced K-12 teacher, ask them about the teacher education program they went though in college. Be advised that the chuckle will often be accompanied by a derisive snort and/or flabbergasted rapid exhalation of air. Almost certainly, the seasoned teacher you ask will at some point in their answer:
  • Raise an eyebrow into a disdainful arch
  • Roll their eyes once, if not many times
  • Use words like "useless", "pointless" and "interminable" in multiple combinations
It is one of the K-12 "secrets of the temple" that almost all teacher education programs suck. Sure, I'd like to use a fancier, less plebian term than "suck", but the word "suck" captures so well the sucky sucktitude of these programs.

I have now come across a recently released "study" of said programs, and (wouldn't it know it?) it has come up with exactly the same finding. Being academics with reputations to uphold and significant funding, the members of the "Education Schools Project" did not entitle their 140-page report "Teacher Education Programs Suck", but instead called it "Educating School Teachers". Despite the wishy-washy title, the report confirms what every experienced teacher would tell you, but with bigger words and without the hearty, turning to derisive, chuckles.

The sexy quote from the report's executive summary is this:

"'Teacher education right now is the Dodge City of education, unruly and chaotic,' said the author of the report, Arthur Levine, the president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the former president of Teachers College at Columbia University."--New York Times (and others), September 19, 2006

You can tell Dr. Levine was a eyelash away from using the word "suck", can't ya?

The question you non-teachers are probably asking yourself right now is: why are the preparation programs so bad? And because I'm too busy chuckling, snorting and rolling my eyes I'm simply going to direct your attention to the 140-page report (yes, it's a dreaded .pdf). Besides, Dr. Levine and his crew got paid more, analyzed/experienced more than just one such program (in my case the University of New Mexico Special Education Department, an entity whose mere mention makes me almost fall down laughing/crying) , and used more sophisticated words than "suck".

Two years ago, for complicated reasons, I found out that I needed to take a teacher education class at UNM after having last attended the place in 1994. It was a remarkable experience. The class was full of newbie teachers, only a few seasoned folks like myself sprinkled like hot chiles amid all the ingenues (and they were mostly young women, btw).

Truth be told, I felt like a returning soldier from a foreign war stuck among new, idealistic recruits. I heard their stories and concerns and really couldn't bring myself to tell them how misguided, naive and out of touch with teaching reality they were. Okay, on rare occasions I did tell them, and in each of these few instances my tales from the front were met with disbelief, askance looks and, in one or two cases, a not insignificant level of righteous outrage. I quickly learned to hide my battle scars and waited patiently for the end of the semester. I collected my ridiculously easy "A" in the class and repeated my vow to never, ever take a teacher education program class again.

But don't take my word for it. Read the "study", especially if you, dear reader, are thinking of a career in K-12 education. Read it, visit the various programs, ask questions of seasoned teachers you know. If you make it through that gauntlet still wanting to teach maybe, just maybe, you can survive the inanity of a teacher education program. Frankly, I wouldn't wish it upon anybody. I wish I were kidding.

P.S.: For those interested, here is a comment thread at "" in response to the "study". Like most comment threads it ranges wildly from insightful to banal to bizarre, but is worth a cursory look for anybody with wants to better understand the mindset of teachers working in the field.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Writing About What You Know, Or At Least Get Paid For

Not that you should write this down, consider the long-term historical implications or even care, but I'm playing around with narrowing the heretofore unfocused focus of Burque Babble into that of a K-12 education blog. No, I don't know exactly what that means, either.

You may have noticed the change in the blog subtitle from something about blind newspapers to some unfunny slogan with the word "education" in it. Then there's the six or so posts in a row about the whole edumucatin' the Youth O' America thing.

I've been very hesitant in the past to write much about my profession because it always felt like a doctor watching "ER" or something. Too much like work. Still, it would be nice to actually know at least a little on the subject of which I write, and maybe on that very, very rare occasion I might actually have some sliver of insight that a non-teacher reader may find of some passing interest. Besides, I'm still sick of politics at this point.

That's the plan, anyway, for now. I, of course, reserve the right to pontificate on other subjects, including the endless myriad topics I know nothing about, a fact which has stopped me not at all in the past.

In closing, I somehow get the feeling I should sign this as some sort of "Declaration of Principles" like Charles Foster Kane...but it's far, far less important than that, and besides, Charles Foster Kane didn't live up to the Principles anyway. Oh...and I won't stop making old movie references. I often wish I could, but it's an affliction I seem unable to treat, regardless of blog subject.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday Morning Coming Down

What a break. Lyrics from several songs come to mind, including the title of this blogpost, the Dead's "What a long, strange trip it's been", and Sufjan Stevens' line about himself and mass-murderer John Wayne Gacy, Jr., "Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid".

It's been a break of record snow, long, almost Buddhist meditative retreat reflections upon that snow, cabin fever, roof repair and wearing sunglasses indoors because it's so bright outside. We've had too long to ponder the past Semester of school and a growing ennui about exactly what it will be like when we get back. It's been a break of holiday ups and downs, downs that make one wonder what perverse deity would instill in people the need for religious-based winter solstice ceremonies, and up periods that make us worship any deity, living or dead, who would think up the whole snow idea.

In other words...this break has gone on too long, now.

Summer vacations for teachers/students are one thing. We're used to them and they include the progression of students from one grade to another. This Winter Break has been so long that it seems like a Summer Vacation, but the kids will not have moved anywhere in terms of what grade they are in. These psychological journeys we've made over the 23 days of break will be jarringly contrasted with the fact tomorrow that nobody has gone anywhere. Heck, given that I teach middle school it's entirely possible that several students will have grown three inches since I last saw them, but will still be sitting in the same increasingly inadequate chairs.

It reminds one that a HUGE advantage of the fake world of teaching v. the real world of work is the constant flow of progression and change. We teachers are like product inspectors on a very slow-moving conveyor belt. The students pass, as we wear white smocks and goggles smoothing imperfections whenever possible with a gloved-hand smudge here and there. The product then drops off the belt to be shipped to a high school, while we turn our gaze to another set of products.

I wouldn't have it any other way. Perhaps some of you who have gone on vacation from "real jobs" only to return, again, to a dysfunctional office are a little envious of the educational system in this regard. Ah, the grass is occasionally green on this side of the fence, I guess.

So what I'm saying here is that tomorrow, Day One of Spring Semester, is gonna be a little weird. The entire Spring Semester might, in some small ways, be weird because of this simple three-day delay. The autistic are known for their incredibly heightened demand for repetition and order, but it is only a heightened state of a feeling we all share. This collective uneasiness will most probably be exacerbated by the following:

  • Schools will still have enough ice on walkways and such to inevitably lead to kids falling on their asses with great regularity.
  • I would guess that every single APS school built before 2000 (which is, of course, the great preponderance of them) will have significant roof leaking issues. The bill from these leaks will be the subject of newspaper stories and well-placed trash baskets for months to come.
  • Outside Recess and Lunch activities will be curtailed, leading to a cabin fever which will be only be ameliorated by continuous announcements from school administrators that "anyone caught throwing snowballs will be (punished/suspended/tortured/killed)".
  • An inordinate number of bad essays will be written on the topic of "What I Did During the Snowstorm".
  • The longer break means fewer days before our required standardized testing, which makes your humble blogmaster sleepy just thinking about it.
All these things notwithstanding, your humble blogmaster is positively excited that we're finally going back to school. It'll be a somewhat bumpy re-introduction and start for the reasons listed above, but the strongest analogy I can come up with for the feeling I have this last Sunday morning is that of the prizefighter waiting in the dressing room before heading down the aisle to the championship fight. That may sound strange, and kinda scary, but we teachers are chomping at the bit to get in the intellectual ring, box around some higher-level thinking and knockout some academic sloth...but we're still sitting here in our glittery boxing trunks smacking gloves together nervously.

It's time to get ready to rumble. Way past time. Let's get it on.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Charter School Vacates, And A Charter School Story Goes Haywire

Prologue: Since deciding to not pay for access to the Albuquerque Journal website, I've had the thrilling chance to see/hear some of the ads one is forced to endure before gaining access to the speakeasy of news that it is. Of course, I switch webpages immediately when the ad starts, but I can't help but notice that the most-played "spot" is one for "Parade" magazine in the Journal itself. Nothing says hip, 'Net savvy, "New Journalism" like "Parade", doncha think? I'm expecting the next ad to be for the "Family Circle" comic strip or "Beetle Bailey" or something. Having the "Parade" ad run on a website is like having a promotion for 8-track players spieling over at ITunes.

Chapter I (and only chapter):

Today's "flash non-fiction" story is about a haunted building. A haunted school building near the corner of Wyoming and Menaul. In case you don't know, "flash" is a fairly new literary term for a really, really short story. I'm calling this story "non-fiction", but as I'm the one telling the story, and having spent serious time in the haunted building, you need to understand that not everyone thinks it's haunted.

Sitting adjacent to "God's House Church" is a forlorn two-story building that has most recently served as the site of Ralph J. Bunche Academy, a new charter school designed to help minority students succeed. Before that it was the former location of Amy Biehl High School, and before that it served as the campus of Bosque Prep. News comes today that the Bunche Academy is leaving, deciding to instead occupy a space along Yale S.E. that, for some reason, the Journal is calling the "South Valley".

My personal experience with this building came with my employ at Amy Biehl, a school with sufficient press coverage over the years that just about everyone has heard of it. You probably know, for instance, that it moved downtown to some really nice digs. Interestingly, Bosque Prep also went from the humble, Section 8 housing feel of the "God's House Church" location to an amazing campus along the Rio Grande. One hopes that the Bunche Academy location is or eventually becomes as nice as either of those other two sites.

Bunch Academy most probably deserves it after its stint in the haunted building. Now, by haunted, I'm not talking about ghosts and strange noises coming from water pipes. I'm referring to a different type of haunting, one of unfortunate human emotions like hubris, arrogance, ambition...that sort of thing.

...and with that oblique reference I realize that I, like the, have mis-marketed this thing. It's not going to be a "flash" story. It's not even a blog entry. It's really more of a 700 page Anna Karenina-meets-Thomas Pynchon tome sort of deal. A story that makes for an excellent door stop or weightlifting tool. A story that I've half, one-quarter and one percent written over the last few years now.

I make a ton of references to movies in this insignificant little blog, and I probably make the most references to the movie "Chinatown". I really like that movie's script, although the whole Nicholson/Dunaway "romance" of sorts thing is almost unwatchable. Anyway, the line everyone knows from that movie is "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." Well, for your humble blogster, that forlorn building sitting adjacent to "God's House Church" is my "Chinatown".

But instead of a movie script or 700-page doorstop, I'll just leave it at that, adding only that I'm glad that the Ralph J. Bunche Academy has moved out of the building. Maybe the place can now be bulldozed, or reduced to embers in a spectacular midnight fire with its forlorn walls crashing down in almost slow-motion amid the flames while onlookers pull their bathrobes together in the snowy cold.

Trust me, I have a million such scenarios in my head. I've had them for years now.

Epilogue: The haunted building hasn't always been the source of horror and hubris. It's been good for some laughs, too. The most well-known funny incident involved a little hubris, actually, and took place between the time Amy Biehl left to go downtown and Ralph J. Bunche showed up for its short-lived stint at the place. It seems that at the end of the last Semester of Amy Biehl's occupation, the students trashed the place (btw, this was well after my time in "Chinatown" was over).

This led to a sizable bill being presented to Amy Biehl from the "God's House Church" administrators, a brouhaha in which Amy Biehl co-founder Tony Monfiletto was paraphrase quoted saying "the student painting isn't graffiti or vandalism but rather art and expression", and a classic landlord/tenant squabble that was eventually resolved but not before ABQ Trib readers got to see a photo of a toilet with the word "poop" painted above it. Trust me, relative to everything else that happened in the haunted place this was pretty damn funny.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

APS Scrounges For More Couch-Change While Everyone Waits

We all know that the End of Year Snowstorm '06 (trademark pending) was a "perfect storm", a once-in-a lifetime event. So it shouldn't be surprising that APS is proving unprepared for the ice, roof leaks and general mayhem the storm has caused.

Still, you gotta wonder about the District's "snowy day" budget when APS Maintenance & Operations (the legendary "M&O" in APS parlance) Manager reveals in an ABQJournal story this morning that

"Ice has been the biggest problem, he said, and APS has set aside $200,000 to pay for removing it. But he anticipates more problems after everything melts. "There will be many, many pot holes," he said. APS has $100,000 set aside for asphalt repairs, he said. Roofs will likely leak, too. Several classrooms have flooded at Marie Hughes Elementary on the West Side, Dufay said."

A little check this morning shows APS consists of 131 schools (not including charters). As a home owner who is gonna have to have a roof job done when all this snow & moisture is finally gone, I'm looking at probably $4,000 to get my roof fixed. One roof. On an average sized house.

Meanwhile, to reiterate, APS has 131 schools, with huge, sprawling roofs, large parking lots and asphalt in Joni Mitchell "Big Yellow Taxi" abundance. And you're telling me they have a total of $300,000 set aside for ice removal and asphalt repair? And no mention of a roof repair budget? For the whole District?

(btw, it helps if you read the last paragraph with a rising level of indignation as you go, culminating in a red-faced, increasingly squeaky voice)

Simple division shows that to be just over $2,000 a school. I haven't more thoroughly crunched the numbers, but just eyeballing it...I can see how some can half-seriously guesstimate APS might not start back up until mid-February at this rate.

I don't fall into this way of thinking because we've already reached a tipping point for parents and kids (teachers too, in truth) where Polonium-210 could be found throughout District schools and we'd gladly go back to our radioactive classrooms. Hell, that's what we have Nurses' Offices for, anyway. A band-aid and a ten-point memo on "how to wash our hands" and we'd have that Polonium thing licked (so to speak), no problem.

Apologia: For those who aren't now involved and don't remember "The Nurses' Office" in public schools, I apologize for the rising number of Nurses' Office mentions in this blog. But they are such a font of bureaucratically-infused hilarity & Nurse Ratchet-style pill dispensation that I can't help myself. I really just need to do a whole post about them and get it out of my system, but for now I'll just snipe at random.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Twenty-Three Days...Do I Hear Twenty-Three, Twenty-Three!

sold Burquean!

If I can just add anything to Superintendent Everitt's comments regarding the District decision to extend school closings to next Monday, the 8th, it would just be this....

"on behalf of APS we'd like to extend our sympathies to all parents who will now have to put up with their increasingly bothersome children for another four continuous days. The District has teamed up with makers of anti-depressant drugs and liquor bottling companies to make helicopter drops of both products to stranded parents over the next few days."

Yes the extend-o-closing is embarrassing. But, reporting now from my school (yes, I'm blogging from work..something I never do...but then again, we're not working), I can state I nearly fell on my ass about five times getting in the door, and we have our skeletal custodial staff about 50 sq. ft. into the roughly 125,000 sq. ft. scraping job required to keep from having a Nurses' Office full of head trauma cases upon student return.

Btw, we at APS have one smoking fast Internet connection when school isn't in session.

So what to do now? Good question. You parents out there have the helicopter drops to look forward to, but we childless teacher-types have big questions to ask ourselves about the next few days. Questions like: "should I take my nap today at 3:30 or 4:30?"

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Little Story From the World of Teaching

It's the last 24 hours of a glorious 18 day break for us K-12 educational types, a work interlude that has combined the sublime (snow/time at home/time in Pecos) with the ridiculous (me, extent of Gerald Ford funeral activities, me again) to perhaps a greater extent than any Winter Break I can remember.

But thoughts now turn back to the J-O-B, and a little anecdote I can't help but pass on from the hallowed booger/spitball-covered halls of my school. I've hesitated to mention this piquant tale on Babble because the telling requires a bit of informational infrastructure. If that little warning doesn't turn you off completely, go grab another cup of coffee, make sure the boss isn't looking for a while, and I'll inadequately try to piece together for you a little saga I call "the extra 45 minutes".

Every Spring we have "standardized testing". You don't have to be a teacher or student to know that. It's the one bit of news (besides sport teams and the occasional weapon on campus) that comes out of our public schools every year. Well, because the tests are so important (and I can't begin to tell you the measure of ironic mass I use in writing the word "important" here...a black hole of ironic mass, a singularity of ironic mass), school officials are always strategizing the schedule that will result in the best student performance possible.

In the old days, when everyone treated the test like the leprous disease that it has always been, the plan was to just get the damn thing over with. Kids tested all day, every day until the stupid little booklets and #2 pencils could be put away for another year. Sure students were falling asleep by the early afternoons of test days, bored to the point of bleeding from the ears, but at least the faux-informational drudgery only lasted a couple of days this way.

As the loathsome bubble-fests became more important, "experts" and such started to question whether a testing slumber party was the way to go. This gave rise to "studies" which showed that parceling the tests out in shorter bites over several days would lead to higher scores. To be honest, I never really saw these "studies", and I'm half convinced that various Principals and such just made them up, but you gotta admit the logic is there, and besides the scores were really sucking, so what the Hell.

By the way, in an interesting example of federalism K-12 style, districts and the State Public Education Department don't absolutely dictate testing times to individual schools. They have a window of dates when testing must happen, but the specific implementation plan (e. g., what times to test each day) is left up to mom and pop Principal/staff. That would seem to give credence to the "they're just making it up" theory of best testing practices, but it also leads to staff and "school leadership committee" meetings in which admin/staffmembers pontificate about "studies" that purportedly indicate that kids, for example, test best between the hours of 8:45 and 11:27, with an orange juice break at 10:13.

All of these "studies" whether made up or not say that testing during the afternoon is death. Evidently, the human brain (especially in the young) is incapable of doing anything besides playing Halo 2 and reading blogs after lunch. And taking naps, sweet naps. So pretty much all schools test in the morning, orange juice break included, and leave the afternoon free.

And that's where the problem comes in.

What do you do with the kids after lunch on test days? In my limited experience, the following has been tried:

  • Teach the rest of the school day like it's a normal day, but with each class period about 17 minutes long (the result of this is some sort of Chaplin "Modern Times" thing where a bell rings, kids go to class, sit down for a minute, a bell rings and they go to another class, a bell rings...)
  • Teach the rest of the day, but with only half the periods of a normal school day (this tends to create havoc for overall school scheduling, while testing brain-dead students sit through afternoon classes dreaming of playing Halo 2 all the time)
  • Make the afternoons "fun times" in which students get to watch movies, and, in one memorably stupid year, have an extended (like two hours) time on the football field in a tableau so identical to a prison yard that teachers felt they should have been issued machine guns, guard towers and concertina wire.
Given these past experiences, the "Instructional Council" at my school (btw, I apologize for all these parentheses today, but do feel the need to point out that: 1. each school has some sort of committee of admin and selected staff to make decisions over things like this testing time thing, because if it were left up to making them at full staff meetings either, A. nothing would get decided; B. complete anarchy would break out involving crying teachers complaining about "that time Johnny threw the orange juice at Maria during the break and....", C. Springfield would get a monorail; 2. these committees have a bewildering array of names: "Instructional Council", "Leadership Committee", "School Improvement Council", "Lead Team", "Restructuring Council"; somebody needs to do a "study" and find the best name for such a group, and for $100,000 I am willing to conduct a one-person study for this purpose; 3. I am not on our school's "Instructional Council" and would not at this point in my career be on such a body if someone held a gun to my head...remember Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown"...well, for me, committees like this are "Chinatown", and no, I don't want to talk about it)

As I was saying, given these past experiences, the "Instructional Council" at my school had a great idea. So great, I separate the idea into its own paragraph....

Send the kids home and have our Spring Parent/Teacher conferences in the afternoons of three testing days.

This idea kills so many birds with so few stones that worldwide bird populations would be decimated and we could still build a sturdy stone gymnasium. Kids test at the optimal time, "studies" show, are sent home during the useless afternoons, Parent/Teacher conferences don't wreck other school days, conferences don't last all day leading to teacher coma and basically having to put name tags on the parents to tell them apart. This is possibly the greatest single idea ever developed through a school leadership committee, imho, and I'm considering nominating this idea and "council" to the people at Nobel, Fulbright, etc. for an award of some type.

And that's where we finally reach the point of this little story. Several teachers (total number unknown) didn't like the plan. They didn't like it because it involved we teachers extending our work day from the normal 3:05 final bell (and roughly 3:20/3:30 hitting the parking lot) until 4:00 in order that parents would have more time to see us.

They framed the objection as being made without sufficient staff input, but in truth they really just didn't like having to stay until 4:00. I cannot stress how embarrassing it is for me, as a K-12 teacher, to have typed the previous sentence.

We're talking about 4:00 P.M. here. I talked to my friends/wife with "real jobs" about the 4:00 thing and they, without exception, started laughing to the point of crying and stomach pain. Yet, at my school this glorious plan has caused the following:

  • Our union reps have had to put a little memo in our in-school mail boxes that there were "concerns" about the plan.
  • A union staff vote was to be held about the plan; this vote would have to be 75% in favor of the plan for it to be allowed to continue.
  • This voting business was required because having teachers stay until 4:00 three days in a row violated our collective bargaining agreement as to discretionary time that principals can use to have staff meetings, etc..
  • Regarding the extended time thing it actually gets more complicated than that, and involves the fact that our principal NEVER asks us to stay anywhere close to the amount she could under the agreement, thank God/Goddess/Flying Spaghetti Monster.
  • Our Union President, Ellen Bernstein, was contacted and talked to several union members over lunch. We thought this meeting would be about the brouhaha, but instead Ellen just wanted us to fill out little questionnaires about any concerns over time issues we had. In other words, I wasted a lunch sitting in the gym on one of those butt-crunchingly hard rafters filling out a questionnaire.
  • We got another little memo in our in-school mail boxes saying that the vote was being postponed.
  • We had a pre-school staff meeting the Thursday before Winter Break specifically to give our principal a chance to defend the testing schedule plan. Thus, we had an extension by roughly 30 minutes of our "duty day" in order to talk about why some people thought it was awful that we had a 45 minute extension of our "duty day". Personally, I thought the meeting was a profoundly eloquent "*&^% You" statement on the part of our principal to those unnamed staffers who objected to the idea.
The upshot is that, as of this writing, we will continue to have Parent/Teacher conferences until 4:00 on the three days in question. Teachers will be required to stay until 4:00 for two of those days, as that is the allowed discretionary extra time given to principals for a month. Teachers will be asked to stay until 4:00 on the third day, but this will be absolutely voluntary. No, I am not making this up. Yes, I wish I were making this up.

And tomorrow, we who ply our trade in the fake world that is K-12 education, go back to work. Having had jobs in the "real world" for years, I have enough perspective to know that workplaces are screwed up all over. I've not only seen "The Office"...I've worked in that office. Still, I'd have to say the bizarre construct that is K-12 teaching offers unique elements that lead to situations you just can't get in the "real world". This little story is one of those situations. Speaking of perspective, I remember a time 17 days ago, when in thinking about this little situation, I wanted to smash something with bitter rage at all the bitter rageful burn-out teachers it he world who would object to such a plan. Now, 17 days later, I just can't stop laughing. It's hard to type I'm laughing so hard. In a way, it's hard to stop typing I'm laughing so hard.

I hope everyone had a good break. I hope we're all laughing now when at various points along the break we were rageful, or crying, or both. I hope we all remember the break when it's the middle of the middle of the semester, and we're passing out those test booklets. And working until 4:00, remembering to smile while we think about those unnamed colleagues simmering with indignant rage down the hallowed booger/spitball-covered halls.

Addendum 1/3/07, 9:32 a.m.: The New York Times has started a new series on Middle School Hell, and "studies" on how to make it better for all involved. Part one is too New York-centric, but conveys enough angst and hopelessness to make me think I work at a Superfund site armed only with a spaghetti strainer. Trust me, it's at least a tiny bit more fun that the article suggests, at least some of the time. Or maybe I'm too deep in the delusion at this point.

Collect the whole NYTimes series and you might be homeschooling your middle school kids, your friend's middle school kids and any 13 year olds you see walking down the street.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Next, PNM Will Invite You To Join Their Google Talk

I spend too much time on the Internet. I falsely believe the Internet is capable of solving almost any problem. The Internet is my cigarette, the first thing I run to on most mornings, and too often the last thing I see before I go to sleep. We have four computers in our house now...and two people.

But there are limits.

Such as yesterday, when I noticed that PNM had set up an email address for people to report power outages. I saw this on Channel 4's "Breaking News" crawl interspersed with whiplash closed/open Interstate status statements.

My first response was "boy, that's stupid", but then, infused with renascent love and understanding for mankind, I thought "what about laptops? They can run on batteries". Then my musings turned to routers, and my inner voice saying "boy, that's stupid" returned anew.

Sometime later, actually about ten seconds ago, I reasoned that if you have DSL and plug your laptop in directly via a Cat-5 jumper you could fire off an email to PNM after all. I think...I've never had DSL.

All of which just adds fuel to my original point. I spend too much time on the Internet. I have spent significant time pondering emergency Internet access possibilities, even when my power wasn't out and I had no need for such crisis plan implementation.

I am so addicted that it didn't cross my mind to think "boy, that's stupid" for the simple reason that this power outage solution was being presented on TV. Electronic television. As in using electricity. That fact seriously never occurred to me until right now. Man, that's funny. I'm like the guy who laughs at the joke seven seconds after it's told.

And it's all because of this pesky Internet. I see references to "email" and my brain latches on like lamprey to sharks. Maybe that should be my "New Year's Resolution". No internet.


Nah, can't do it. Stupid idea and forget I brought it up. I gotta go check my email now.