Saturday, November 29, 2003

Human frailties have gotten the best of me again this weekend. I had so many things I needed to do, starting with preparing my manuscript to go to a couple of publishers. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I have been in terrible physical condition for the past week or so and it doesn't appear to be getting any better.
I have spent the last two days in bed. When I stand up, I feel like my head is swimming, but I am just fine when I lay down, so naturally, I have been laying down quite a bit.
I was starting to feel a little more under the weather when I went to my parents' home in Newtonia in Thanksgiving, but I just acted like everything was fine. Since I am not particularly good in crowds, it wasn't a great experience, but it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.
Of course, it could be psychosomatic. I occasionally exchange e-mails with the mother of one of my former Diamond students. She said I sounded depressed in my last e-mail and, who knows, maybe I did. I have a tendency to dwell on things and when you have had two jobs taken away from you that you loved in the space of four years...while everyone talks about how great you are at both of them...well, it does have a tendency to get to you. And now I am being told that the new journalism teacher at Diamond has made numerous comments about my shortcomings at journalism (I spent 22 years as a journalist, he has a master's degree in journalism and spent most of his adult life writing publicity releases for the Navy) I know I shouldn't take his comments seriously, but these are my former students who are listening to his criticisms. I doubt that they will be swayed by his comments, but it has to place a little bit of doubt in their minds, especially when the comments are made over and over and over. I suppose I should be flattered that the journalism teacher and the superintendent see me as being such a threat, but it all seems so childish.
I was told Monday or Tuesday, I don't remember which, that the block scheduling for communication arts is being dropped for next year and that I will be teaching writing and not reading. (That is, of course, if the school district doesn't have to cut jobs or something of that nature) I don't mind the change, but I really enjoyed the two-hour communication arts blocks. I have the opportunity to know my students better and I enjoyed getting reacquainted with good literature after spending the last several years reading almost nothing but non-fiction. (I suppose that just because I am only teaching writing doesn't mean that I can't continue reading.)
My old habits have resurfaced during the holiday break. I'm not reading any great works of fiction. I finished the biography of former Supreme Court Justice Byron White earlier today and now I am about 70 pages into David Halberstam's study of the military decisions made by former presidents Bush and Clinton during the 1990s. Military books have never been among my favorites, but I'll read almost anything written by Halberstam. I donated several of my Halberstam books to the Diamond school library. I would be surprised if any of them have been put on the shelves. I would love for students to be able to read "The Children," his book describing the Freedom Riders of the early 1960s and what happened to them in later years. It's long, but it is so engrossing that it seems like the pages just fly by. My guess is "The Children" is still in a cardboard box in the storage room at the middle school, along with the other approximately 500 books I donated last summer. About 500 of the books I donated earlier are on the shelves at the middle school library, but among the ones that didn't fit into the librarians' concept of what belongs in a school library were works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen, and John Steinbeck. I guess those writers are out of fashion.
I am hoping to get enough energy to drive into Joplin either later tonight or tomorrow, most likely tomorrow, and check to see whether Edna Buchanan's latest novel is out in paperback at Books-A-Million. For those of you who aren't familiar with her work, Ms. Buchanan has written a series of mystery novels about a Miami Herald investigative reporter named Britt Montero. I have read all of them except her latest "The Ice Maiden," which supposedly came out in paperback last week. Ms. Buchanan herself is an award-winning investigative reporter for The Miami Herald. If I still don't feel well enough to go tonight or tomorrow, I'll drop by after school on Monday. (And yes, barring a disaster, I will be at work on Monday. Since the day I took my first full-time job at The Newton County News in May 1977, I have never missed a day of work. There probably have been numerous times when I should have stayed at home, but I was always brought up that if you have a job, you show up ready to work every day. If you don't there are other people who would just love to have your job. I know my streak is going to end some day (and obviously, not being married and having kids has something to do with it since I guarantee you, I would stay at home with a sick kid), but I don't want to ever get in the habit of taking a day off just to recharge my batteries, especially as a schoolteacher. Think about it, our jobs probably do expose us to all kinds of psychological stress and teachers deserve every cent they receive (and more), but we do have at least 185 days each year when we are not teaching or attending in-service. We have time to recharge our batteries. My God, I must sound like someone from a bygone age.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The good news is...I have a cold. I have never described that as good news before, but I was beginning to get worried.
A little background: Last Monday, I was moving around the multi-media class, making sure my students were working and not surfing the net for things they are not supposed to be surfing the net for. Suddenly, I began to feel weak and I had to sit down. That didn't help much. I kept getting weaker and weaker. Fortunately, South's tech director, Mike Sapp, was in the room so I asked if he could take over for a few moments while I went to the nurse's office. I barely made it there. I went immediately to a cot and laid down for about five minutes. I still didn't feel great, but I went back to the classroom and I managed to get through the rest of the day.
The same thing happened earlier this year in the same classroom. I came down with a bad cold almost immediately and it took me about a week to get over it. This time, I had to wait and wait for the cold and I began fearing that I had some horrible undetected disease. Finally, Friday night as I was returning home from school, all of the symptoms began to hit. So I have my cold. I'm feeling worse, but I'm also feeling better if that makes any sense
Hopefully, the long-delayed South Middle School website will go on line this week. We are waiting for the computer that the news and sports material is on to get back from the shop. After that, we should be able to have the home page, top news page, sports page, a links page for student research, and a links page for teachers, with more on the way.
Because I was feeling so lousy Friday night, I did not get to be at Hastings for Bill Colby's discussion and book signing. Colby was the lawyer who fought all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court for Nancy Cruzan's right to die. I did buy his book, however, and I hope to read it over the Thanksgiving break.
Even though I teach at South, I can't seem to put the craziness of the Diamond R-4 School District behind me. I have spent about an hour a week keeping up my Wildcat Central website because it has always meant so much to the kids.
Now I find out that the continued existence of my site is bothering the person who is doing the new "official" Diamond R-4 website so much that he is threatening kids who provide information to me for the stories I put on the site. I find it particularly appalling that he is telling my former students that I am not much of a journalist, which he, of course, knows because he has a master's degree in journalism. Of course, he doesn't tell them that the only time he worked for newspapers when he was in college 30 years ago and worked part-time for The Joplin Globe. He has worked mostly in p.r. for the military since that time. He also did some radio journalism. I can't even imagine criticizing a teacher or a former teacher to students. For the record, students have not been providing information for the website. Most of it I get by rewriting information from The Neosho Daily, the Newton County News or The Joplin Globe.
Unfortunately, this man's tactics have really caused problems for my former students, who want to remain loyal to me, but also, quite understandably, do not want to get on this man's bad side. I plan to encourage them to make a break from me. They can't let this nonsense affect their school lives.
The same tactics have been used by a school administrator who has threatened people who have websites and provide links to Wildcat Central. He has threatened at least one teacher and one student who have non-school websites (though both provide some school information). Both sites no longer link to mine.
Of course, it does boost my ego that they see me as being such a threat, but there is really no way I can do them any damage.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Just when I thought we had the new South Middle School website on track, we have run into a minor obstacle. One of the students in my third hour multi-media class broke the laptop computer that was being used to build the news and sports pages during fourth hour. The computer will not shut now and it also has lost its shift key and shift lock key. Autumn Mauller was able to save the work and consolidate it fourth hour, which is a promising sign, but it may just set the debut of our best pages back a few days.
Interesting article in The Joplin Globe last week. The Webb City R-7 School Board has put a nepotism policy into place to prevent relatives of board members from being hired.
The article says "the board may not hire an applicant within the fourth degree of kinship of a board member unless the position was advertised, the superintendent writes a letter of recommendation for the applicant, and the names of other applicants are placed in a file."
I am sure that even if such a board policy were in effect in the Diamond R-4 School District (and it may be) that you would still have the same semi-incestuous situation. I count at least five board members who have relatives employed by the school district, including the board president, who has two or three. It is simply good policy for people not to hire their relatives. It gives the school district an amateur hour look. That is not to cast any aspersions on the abilities of the people who have been hired, but why would anyone want to be put in such a situation?
The argument has always been that it is all right because the board members do not vote on anything that directly affects their relatives, but that kind of thinking has two flaws:
1. Nearly everything the board members votes on affects their relatives in one way or another.
2. You are not going to get a board member to vote against the interests of another board member's family. That board member might turn around and vote against him and besides, they have to be on the board together until at least the next election and maybe longer than that.
It's bad business.
In Diamond, it was interesting that the two board members who were voted off last time both had family members working for the school district. Immediately after that, the wife of one of the defeated board members was let go from her position as an aide. Of course, the defeat was not an example of the voters sending a message to the board to get its act together. The two board members were replaced by two men whose wives were already employed by the school district.
After a four-month layoff, Natural Disaster made its triumphant comeback Saturday night, though I may be exaggerating just a bit.
After practicing Thursday and Friday nights at the home of our bass player Tim Brazelton in Neosho, we performed Saturday night at a benefit in Stark City for a woman who lost her house in a fire.
About 200 people were shoehorned into the Stark City Fire Department Building (which was probably a fire hazard). Of course, this was the new building for the fire department since the old one burned down.
Everything went pretty smoothly. I missed two or three cues, but we were able to sell them as opportunities for extended guitar solos.
I desecrated the memories of Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Terry Stafford, Wilbert Harrison,and Carl Perkins, by singing "Devil Woman," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Kansas City," "Suspicion," "Blue Suede Shoes," and "Peggy Sue."
I also did "Memphis," and provided background vocals on the songs that Richard Taylor sang lead on.
I took a break during Richard's version of the old Merle Haggard song, "Kern River." My mom came over and said, "Jackie's here and she wants to talk to you."
That certainly brought back memories. I was Jackie Williams's first boyfriend and she was my first girlfriend, from the time we were six years old until we reached the ripe old age of eight.
After the concert, we talked for quite a while. She was visiting her mother. She and her husband live in Colorado. Of course, we agreed to keep in touch with each other and hopefully, we will. That was probably the first time we had talked to each other in nearly 30 years. She, unlike me, still has all of her hair.
Of course, I could say I have all mine, too. I just keep it in a box under the bed.
I was just reading Alicia Bradley's blog a while ago and I am feeling a little guilty.
Alicia, who is a ninth grader at Diamond High School, and Kasey Hockman, an eighth grader, took second place in the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland in June. Their presentation was a video on the turmoil in Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s as blacks fought for voting rights.
Alicia read that some of her competitors at the local level had videos that placed in a competition run by Missouri Southern State College. Alicia was never told about that competition.
I received a letter from the college several weeks ago and, for a brief time, I considered having the students in the multi-media classes put together entries. I decided against it because of the time factor and because I did not realize just how much technology I have access to.
The college sent to these letters to every school in Southwest Missouri, so I am sure that a letter was sent to Diamond. It never occurred to me that either it may be set aside or no one would have the interest to make sure that Alicia and Kasey's video was entered. The school officials certainly can't blame it on the budget since the college did not charge an entry fee for the videos.
Why it didn't occur to me to contact Alicia about the contest, I don't know, but I feel bad about it.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Natural Disaster is back. I was beginning to wonder if my days as a rock/country singer were over. Many people say they were over before they even started, but I refuse to have a negative attitude about music.
Richard Taylor, the group leader, left a message on my answering machine. I was finally able to get hold of him about an hour ago.
A benefit is being held Saturday night at the Stark City Firehouse (hey, we can't all play arenas) for Gertrude Brown, whose house burned recently, destroying all of her belongings and killing her pets. Since we no longer have our female singers, Natural Disaster is now a foursome with Richard playing lead guitar and singing, John Scott on drums, Tim Brazelton on bass and me singing and playing whatever weird little percussion instruments I can come up with. Richard is supposed to contact me tomorrow (Tuesday) to let me know if Tim will be able to do it. He is also hoping to get Mark McClintock, a wonderful guitarist from Neosho, to sit in with us. Mark has been with us at three of our earlier concerts.
I hope we are able to do this. I have missed Natural Disaster these past few months.
All in all, it has been a pretty good day. We are only a few days away from launching the South Middle School website. The Top News and Sports pages are ready. We are still working on teacher pages and the home page. We hope to add a homework hotline page later, as well as links pages similar to the ones I have at and archives pages.
It won't go down as a battle for the ages or anything, but Turner's Turtles, my TA group, won the eighth grade Tug Of War battle this morning. This isn't always the best behaved bunch (to be charitable), but this group pulls together when there's any kind of competition going on.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The countdown to the revamped South Middle School website is on. The multi-media classes ran into some problems transferring photos from iphotos on our laptops to the Claris Home Page webpages. Thanks to Mike Sapp, the tech director for South, we are now able to get going.
Chelsea Banfield has been working diligently on the teacher pages, combining photos she took of the teachers with information they filled out from forms I sent them two or three weeks ago.
Emily Evans is designing the home page, which most likely will feature a picture of the school, our mascot the Eagle, links to other pages and a few other items.
Autumn Mauller has already put together a fantastic sports page and early next week we will be putting together the news page. The advanced communication arts class has already been working on writing stories for the news and sports pages under the guidance of student editors Autumn, Rachel Ryan, Sarah McDonough, and Lindsey Hamm. It has been an exciting project and will be one which we will continue to work on through the remainder of the school year.
Another exciting project has been the extra credit work being done by the communication arts classes. I wondered if they would care much for a project that is going to require them to work until they leave here in May 2004. Apparently, they are, though I'm not going to get overconfident about it.
All students have to do an extra-credit project, but they have a number of choice they can make as to what the project will be. Some of them have started writing novels. Others are working on books of short stories, two or three-act plays, books of poetry, or tripling their Accelerated Reader points. I have had several students stop by and show me their work and I have been impressed (though not surprised) by their industrious attitudes and by the quality of their writing. I have always believed that if you have high expectations, the students will come through for you (and for themselves). They have not been given a set number of pages they have to write. All they have to do is show each Friday that they have made progress during the week. Some will never finish what they writing, but some of them will, and hopefully, all of them will learn something by doing this.
I received another batch of e-mail today from my former students at Diamond and a few of them have signed the guestbook on Wildcat Central. I am really surprised, and very touched, that I am still hearing from so many of them. After I left The Carthage Press, it was very rare that I heard from anybody and I worked there for almost 10 years. I suppose I have been one of those rare teachers who receives an opportunity to know how students really think about him. The kids were always great to me, but they have been particularly wonderful since all of the mess started last summer.
I have a hard time understanding why The Joplin Globe can't play it straight where education news is involved. Today's page one featured an article about whether teachers are "highly qualified" under federal guidelines. One parent was quoted in the article saying, "Any good teacher would feel that their continued learning would be beneficial to anyone they teach." It's not a bad quote, but it really has no connection with the rest of the story and the woman who was quoted was the only parent quoted in the entire story. The message the Globe seems to be pushing is that the Joplin R-8 School District does not have qualified teachers. The box by the story indicates that 97.6 percent of the teachers in the school distrfict meet U. S. Department of Education guidelines. The article did not really come to grips with a "qualified teacher" is. (Not surprising since there is a wide range of opinions on that subject.)
The Globe's choice of headlines is also taken directly from the tabloid mode. "How qualified are teachers?" The headline leaves the distinct impression that the teachers around here must be people who would be better off begging on Main than being in front of a classroom full of children.
A better headline (and more accurate one, by far) would have stressed that all school districts in the Joplin metropolitan area have qualified teacher rates of 97.6 percent or above, nearly three percentage points above the state average.
My former publisher at The Carthage Press, Jim Farley, believed that a strong weekly newspaper, focusing on school and sports news, would flourish in Joplin. He was right then and it would still work now. People are looking for some kind of alternative, not one that won't print bad news, but one that believes that the thousands of good things that happen in the R-8 School District every day are also worth publicizing.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

A sad note, a pathetic one actually.
I was checking out the Diamond, Missouri website on the Wildcat Central links page and I discovered its link to Wildcat Central had been removed, undoubtedly at the request of the superintendent. I don't blame the teacher who is running the site for dropping the link. She has her job to think of, but it is amazing how petty the administration has become. Her website is not a school website. Neither is the one Alicia Bradley puts out on the high school band, but the band instructor had Alicia remove the link to Wildcat Central because Wildcat Central is a negative, non-school site.
Fortunately, there is a replacement for Wildcat Central that has been put on the Diamond, Missouri page, the brand spanking-new official Diamond R-4 website, You can feel free to make your own comparisons. I'll let Wildcat Central speak for itself.
An item I forgot to mention yesterday. I went over my evaluation with Mr. Mitchell and it worked out just fine. I won't plan on getting the old resume out.
Monday afternoon, as I was passing by the choir teacher, Mrs. Yonkers's room after school, I was reminded about the negative effect a teacher can have on a student's life. No, it had nothing to do with Mrs. Yonkers, but everything to do with music.
When I was a sophomore at East Newton High School, I tried out for the all school musical, "Anything Goes," at the request of the drama teacher Mrs. Matthews. She selected the actors and I was cast in the number one comedy sidekick role of Moonface Martin, Public Enemy Number 13, which I was eternally grateful for since he had the best lines.
But it was a musical, so it involved singing. The music teacher at East Newton in those days was Mrs. Florine Best. I don't know if she is still alive today, but even then she had a cadaverous look that reminded me of the late actress Bette Davis. In fact, she even resembled Bette Davis, though I am not sure if it was the living Bette Davis or the post-mortem version whom she looked like.
When the singing tryouts were held, I was allowed to sing one line of one song. All I remember about the actual singing was that it was in the wrong key for me.
When I finished singing that one line, Mrs. Best said, "That young man will NOT sing in this play," drawing out the word "not" for maximum effect.
I had never been convinced that I was a great singer anyway, but that just shattered my rather fragile self-esteem. Nonetheless, I did the role, did the Rex Harrison bit (speaking the lines of my songs) and both the play and I received good reviews.
From that point on, however, I knew I was a bad singer. That was the kind of effect one sentence from a teacher can have on an impressionable young student.
I still haven't totally recovered from that comment, but I made it part of the way back. A group from the East Newton Class of 1974 meets a few days after Christmas each year. Some of them are musically inclined. My friend, Richard Taylor, played backup to singers in Branson for a while, while Bill Lemaster sings gospel music, and Kathy Friend does traditional music, including playing the dulcimer. At those gatherings, the music would begin shortly after the meal ended. I was popular because I have a nearly encylopedic memory for songs from the 1950s and 1960s (a talent which is worth almost nothing) and I was the only one who knew all the words. Two years ago, Kathy asked Richard and me if we would perform with her at the String Fling at Crowder College. I wasn't sure about it, but it seemed like it might be fun, so I agreed. Kathy, her younger sister, Kristi Berner, their friend, Tammy Yost, Richard and I began rehearsing for the performance doing songs from the 1950s and 1960s. I was surprised when I was tabbed to do lead vocals on about half of the songs. At first, I figured it was because I was the only one who didn't play a musical instrument (and that may have been the reason), but they kept telling me how well I was singing the songs. And I did love those old songs, the Marty Robbins song, "Devil Woman," Ricky Nelson's "Travelin' Man," Elvis and Carl Perkins's classic, "Blue Suede Shoes," Terry Stafford's "Suspicion," Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" and others.
We were a hit at the String Fling, calling ourselves "Natural Disaster." (I still thought that name best described my singing voice.) We didn't perform together again for a few months, but Richard and I joined with two other guys to do some rock numbers at the Newtonia Fall Festival. The original group began performing again at the 2003 String Fling and we ended up performing several places, at benefits, music shows, and even on the Cerebral Palsy Telethon on Channel 12. The best moment for me came after our performance at a music festival in Carthage in June. The organizer of the festival came up to me and handed me an envelope containing $150. I was in shock. I never even realized we were actually going to get paid. Of course, after it was split six ways, it only amounted to $25, but I didn't care. (Especially since I had just received a letter a few days before from the Diamond R-4 School District telling me I was being put on an unpaid leave of absence. I needed every dollar I could get.
I don't know when or if Natural Disaster will ever perform again. I hope so. I had a lot of fun doing it and I love those songs. I still don't have a high regard for my singing ability, but the singing, as much as I enjoyed it, was not the most important thing.
Because of that one sentence from the late Florine Best (and if she's still alive, I don't know how you would tell the difference), I learned a valuable lesson that I hope I carry with me for the remainder of my teaching career...Never tear down a young person's self-esteem or crush his or her dreams.
Happy 17th birthday to my former student, Samantha Young, now a junior at College Heights Christian High School. Samantha is probably one of the four or five most talented writers I have ever worked with, and that's saying a lot since that list includes a former reporter for The Kansas City Star and the current journalism teacher at Lamar High School. Samantha's papers were always well thought out and provocative. Hopefully, she will have a wonderful day.
The 54th day of school is about ready to begin. It appears to be an ordinary day, but you never know. The Communication Arts classes will write opinion papers over Dr. Thomas Sowell's column lambasting public schoolteachers. Unfortunately, in our discussion yesterday on the topic, the eighth graders lambasted public schoolteachers. I suppose that was to be expected.
During the second half of the block, we will continue reading, then discuss, the Ray Bradbury short story, "There Will Come Soft Rains."
I am also going to have the address the minor cheating scandal on the Accelerated Reader tests. Two of my students. whose names will remain unmentioned for obvious reasons, were taking tests for other students. Though both are good students, they are not the people whom I would want taking AR tests for me. On the other hand, when I was a freshman at East Newton High School, I copied off a sophomore girl in algebra, figuring that she knew her stuff because she had taken the same class the year before. That did not turn out to be one of my smarter decisions.
All kinds of dramatic changes have been proposed for the AR tests after the cheating was discovered. I believe keeping a better eye on those two when they return from in-school suspension would probably be the best plan, rather than changing passwords for every student enrolled in AR (in other words, every student in my reading classes).
The multi-media classes will begin a scavenger hunt today, attempting to find the answers to 100 questions on various topics by the end of the week. The members of the winning team in each class will receive $2.50 apiece. Hopefully, this will serve as an educational distraction while a few of the students in each class are able to continue the business of getting the South Middle School website ready for a successful relaunch.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The big day came and went and nothing in particular happened. Mind you, I am not complaining. That was exactly the result I had in mind. Mr. Mitchell, my principal, observed the first hour of my first and second hour Communication Arts block. The kids were on task, the lessons went as I planned and all students were on their best behavior. Even the brief discussion and the students working on past and present tenses at the chalkboard went as planned.
I haven't had my post-evaluation meeting with Mr. Mitchell, but I feel good about the class.
The evaluation was probably something that shouldn't have worried me as much as it did, but when you consider the things that have happened to me in the past four-and-a-half years, you can understand my anxiety.
During that time, I had two jobs that I loved taken away from me and at no time did anyone ever suggest that it either the quality of my work or my attitude were problems, even after I lost the jobs. In fact, during the time period from 1991 to 1999, I received more national, state, and regional awards than any other reporter in Missouri. I routinely put in 16-hour days and worked myself into poor health. For that, I was fired, ended up spending nearly my entire savings, and having no idea where my next paycheck was coming from.
In August 1999, I had a choice of two jobs, the managing editor position at The Miami News-Record, which would have paid me $30,000 annually plus bonuses, and a position as writing instructor at Diamond Middle School. I opted for the latter, even though it paid only a little over $21,000. I had always loved teaching and this was my opportunity to open the door to the profession.
I wouldn't trade my four years in the Diamond R-4 School District for anything. Hopefully, I fully justified the faith Dr. Smith and Mr. Mitchell showed when they hired me. These were two people whom I respected and enjoyed working for. As I later found out, not all administrators are cut from the same cloth.
In May, I signed a contract for a fifth year at Diamond. In June, I discovered that the superintendent and the board of education...the people who allegedly are setting the high moral standards that every school district stands for...have no qualms whatsoever about breaking their word, whether it be a signed written contract, such as I had, or a verbal contract, such as I had with Dr. Smith to create Wildcat Central, the school website.
I was told (by letter) that I was being put on an unpaid leave of absence. I had a hearing, for which I had to wait three weeks, but the result had already been decided. The hearing was a cloak for a superintendent and board which had no intention of actually listening to what I had to say. And even worse, they trampled on the hopes and ideals of the students who came to support me.
The board members were semi-respectable during the open session, though Dr. Webb interrupted me as I was beginning, then brushed off the students by rudely saying, "Are you satisfied?"
I am just happy the students did not have to see what these alleged role models did during the closed session. During that session:
-1. I was told (even though I had not asked) that I would not be paid a cent for three years of work on Wildcat Central because no one could find any document signed by Dr. Smith, saying that he ever intended to pay me. Of course, there are other people around who are aware of the verbal contract, but they weren't going to go out of their way to help me out.
-2. I was told that I set a bad example for the students by reading my letter criticizing Mr. Mayo's (the Diamond superintendent) double dealings during the open session. That shouldn't have been done without an adult explaining it to these seventh through 12th graders, the board members said, because they were too young to understand what I was saying. (In other words, they heard the truth unfettered from me and didn't have Mayo or one of the board members to interpret it in a way favorable to them.
-3. I was criticized by three board members because they were getting complaints from their children about letting me go. I was the one losing a job I loved, but they were upset because they weren't able to justify my dismissal to their children.
-4. I was accused of manipulating the media on my behalf by my donation of 500 books to the Middle School Library, increasing the total I donated to the library to more than 1,000 books. I plead guilty to that one. I knew I would get favorable publicity, but that was the only way I had even a minor chance of being back in a Diamond classroom in August. It failed, of course, and no one has ever thanked me for donating the books. I wonder if any of them are even on the shelves.
-5. When I pointed out that I could make more money for the school district through my website than it would save by eliminating my salary, Dr. Webb said, "If you can make that much money, why do you need the teaching job?"
-6. I was also accused of making things difficult for Mr. Burnett, the new speech and drama teacher by pointing out that he made $38,000 a year, despite having only two years of teaching experience. I am definitely not the only one who has been mentioning that fact. When Larry Augustine was only making about $30,000 after giving more than two decades of service to this school and Burnett is brought in at $38,000, you know that anything Mayo and the board say about education being a top priority has to be taken with a grain of salt. I had to point out to them, that I was trying to hold on to a job for which I made $24,500 a year (the lowest salary in the middle school), while Burnett, with whatever minor inconvenience the knowledge of his salary has caused, was guaranteed a job for $38,000 for the 2003-2004 school year.
6. When I offered to provide the board with copies of the allegations I had made against Mr. Mayo, nearly all of which have proven to be true, not one board member was interested. They had no interest in knowing the truth.
7. When I pointed out that Wildcat Central and the articles I had written for the newspapers over my four years at Diamond, had helped provide positive publicity at a time when the school was receiving much negative publicity from The Joplin Globe, Dr. Webb said that was no big deal, there would always be negative publicity about the school district. (I have to give him credit. He was right about that.)
8. Dr. Webb and the other board members indicated that Wildcat Central, the articles I had written for area newspapers, and the books that I donated to the Middle School Library were just "frills".
9. Mr. Mayo and the board members indicated that I was being let go because my dismissal would affect the fewest number of kids.
10. After the final decision was made, Mayo called me into his office (the first time he even had the decency to talk with me about my dismissal) told me what the board decided and told me that I would not be rehired at Diamond, because he did not want any social studies teachers who didn't coach.
So you can understand that, even though none of this caught me offguard, it still had a devastating effect on my self confidence. What I have learned in the past four-and-a-half years is that hard work, excelling at what you do, and becoming involved, the things that all of the so-called experts say will lead to success, have only led to the unemployment line for me.
So hopefully, getting back to my original topic, I will receive a positive evaluation from Mr. Mitchell. However, I am not really sure what that means me. I never had anything but positive evaluations at Diamond and I never had anything but positive evaluations at The Carthage Press.
I wish I knew how long it's going to take me to get back my self-confidence. I sure miss it.