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.

No comments: