Sunday, May 30, 2004

The first week of summer vacation is over and I haven't accomplished one least not the kind of thing that I would like to accomplish. I would like to be able to say that I have put words down on paper (or more accurately on computer) for my novel. With the exception of some plotting, I haven't done that. I would like to be able to say I have worked on updating my websites. Except for changing the pool on, which I did just a few moments ago, I haven't done that either. Most of the week was spent suffering while I wait for my air conditioning to be worked on. The temperature in my apartment has been about 90 degrees and though my fan and a couple of open windows have helped, it's still not conducive to getting anything accomplished.
I also spent a couple of days getting my financial situation squared. I took out a consolidation loan with USBank for $5,000, which has enabled me to pay off my medical bill at St. John's (more than $1,100), the remainder that I owed on my car (a little over $1,700) and what I owed for dental work I had done a couple of years back (about $850) I still have a few small medical bills that weren't covered by my insurance, but if memory serves me correctly, the largest one is about $170, so I am not that concerned.
I have also begun looking for a place in Joplin. My options are limited, since I want to find a place that is furnished, has enough room for all of my papers, books, and records, and doesn't have an astronomical rent.

It has been so long since I have written that it is hard to know what to talk about next. The last days of school were great, but sad at the same time. I was surprised by how emotional the kids were about leaving at South, even the ones who said they couldn't wait to get away. The tears were flowing the last day. The kids wrote some very sweet things in my yearbook. And to think, I almost didn't buy a yearbook because I was pinching every penny at the time.
The second half of the year was great. After my health problems were eliminated in December, everything went smoothly the remainder of the year. I began to feel like I fit in instead of feeling like a visitor from another planet. I could see a remarkable change in the writing of some of my students from the beginning of the year to the final paper. The writing contest went well and some of the experiments I tried, such as the extra credit project, in which students were allowed to choose a creative way to earn extra credit such as writing a novel, or a book of poetry, or short stories; and the novel-reading project, in which we went to the computer lab each day and read from classics by authors such as Mark Twain, H. G. Wells, and Charlotte Bronte, worked far better than I had expected.

I really liked the rest of the faculty. I didn't find any of the petty politicking and backstabbing that took place among some of the faculty at Diamond. I would say the prinicipal, Ron Mitchell, probably rid the school of that kind of poisonous character pretty quickly. I don't know that you could say that I made really good friends among the faculty members, I'm not the kind of person who makes friends easily, but I got along well with everyone and I don't think I got on anyone's bad side.

The only bad part of the last few months at South came when my former superintendent, Mark Mayo, did his best to have me fired. Mayo apparently told the Joplin R-8 superintendent that I had been using Joplin computers and time to work on my Diamond school website, , which has featured much material has been critical of Mayo's operation of the Diamond R-4 School District. Mayo also tried to make the case that I was devoting far too much time to the Diamond website and not enough time to teaching the students at South.
Ron Mitchell let me know what had been said. He felt I had a right to know that I was under attack from Mayo. He told me not to let it worry me because he (Mitchell) had told the assistant superintedent, Dr. Steve Doerr, that I was doing my job and I was not working on the Diamond website while I was at school. He didn't tell me to shut down Wildcat Central. He didn't even suggest that I do that.
First, I doubt that I have to tell anyone who reads this blog that I never updated Wildcat Central while I was at work at South. My number one priority were those kids who were in my classes every day.
Second, the incredible amount of time I allegedly was spending on Wildcat Central amounted to about one or two hours per week and sometimes not even that much. As Ron pointed out to Dr. Doerr, I worked in the newspaper business for more than 20 years and I was able to turn out a large amount of copy in a very brief amount of time.
I decided to leave Wildcat Central open (I promised that to my Diamond students a long time ago and I do my best to keep my promises.) Most of the new material on it will be innocous items such as birthdays or items about my former students. Unless, of course, the investigative reporter in me manages to turn up something startling about the Diamond R-4 administration. But I am not going to be adding new items about Mark Mayo on a regular business. Ron Mitchell backed me up and there is no way I am going to let him have to suffer because of my writing.
Still, the nerve of Mayo to fire me (twice, but more about that in a few seconds) and then try to get me to lose my new job, is unbelievable. He appears to be the one who is spending his district's time and money involving himself in things that do not concern him. If he had been successful in his effort to put me on the unemployment line, I would have filed the biggest lawsuit against him and the Diamond R-4 School District that you can imagine. Though Mayo's dealings with me were totally unethical as far as my firing (both of them) from Diamond, he can't make the same statement about his actions with the Joplin R-8 School District. Those acts would make his earlier actions and statements appear to be the lies that I (and everyone who has ever had dealings with Mark the Knife) know them to be.
As for the double firing...After I signed a contract to teach the 2003-2004 school year at Diamond, Mayo and the board waited until the last minute (just a few weeks before the school year was ready to start, to let me know they were reneging on the contract due to budget reasons and that I was out of a job. State law required the school district to offer me any job that came up that I was qualified for. In December, I was offered a high school social studies position. Of course, I was making considerably more money, working in a considerably more professional atmosphere, and besides, I signed a contract and unlike Mark Mayo, Dr. Webb and the rest of the R-4 Board of Education, I honor my contracts. I didn't respond to the Diamond job offer. Just as well. I later found out the letter was sent to me days after someone had already been hired for the job.
My second firing took place in April when I received two letters, one from Mayo and one from Dr. Webb, letting me know the board had decided not to renew my contract for the 2004-2005 school year. Since there was never any doubt that I was not returning to Diamond, it was highly unnecessary and wasn't legally required either. Of course, if Mayo had been successful in getting me fired at Joplin (and maybe he thought he would be) their gesture might have meant more. As it was, it was just plain pathetic.
Keep watching this website. I promise to be much more consistent with my updating. Thank you for your patience.