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Saturday, December 20, 2014

I revisit a blog post from two Christmas seasons ago. Two years later, I finally feel peace.  

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Last Day Continued: Covered in the Blood of Jesus

It came to me this morning that I do this for my father too.  

I was on my way to his office. It was time.  Dead man walking. 

 "Do you know what's going on here?"  I asked an assistant principal as I passed her office. She was the assistant principal who had not completely folded to the sick leadership of that school; the one who had come to me once far away from the other offices-made a special trip to see me in my office way at the end of the third floor-and said, "There are forces at work here, Kim.  They are hard to understand."  

 Still, though, in our district's investigation following my report--two ethics charges were brought against him--even she couldn't remember anything. Couldn't  remember the "SHUT UP! THIS IS MY SCHOOL!!!" screaming.  Couldn't recall the profanity either. 

 She probably felt bad about "not remembering." Probably wasn't safe for her to remember.

 Our "in-my-office-far-far-away" conversation followed his cavalier and arbitrary halt of my bullying prevention efforts ("I don't have a bullying problem here," he once told me). It followed my astonishment.  It followed weeks of organization on my part.  After accepting the $8,000 materials and training Olweus grant--he "pulled the plug."   Poof.  It was gone. 

 He'd use Olweus though, later, as evidence of bullying prevention in the law suit.  That's the lawsuit that required a "Bullying and Harassment" checklist.  That's the checklist of ten items I refused to fill out fraudulently.  That's the checklist that the next day, without my knowledge, was fill out by his counselor friend.  That's the check list that used my name and my work as evidence for most of the requirements. That's the check list of required bullying prevention activities that did not happen.  

 That's the check list my district used to betray me.

 "Bullying prevention is this much of what I expect of you." He, who stated he'd "never been alone with me," was alone with me then as he grinned menacingly at me with his thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart.

 I simply cannot put to words, even now more than two years later, the screaming fear that filled me as I walked towards his office my last day there. Is this how a rabbit in the field feels upon glancing up and seeing the hawk's talons extended?  A woman right before the fist again punches her belly?

 I suffered over his decision to halt our Olweus program. Oh!  How amused I am.  I suffered over THAT?!  More and more and more suffering was yet to come. 

 "Yes.  I do know.  May the blood of Jesus cover you."  This with her hands raised to the heavens.  Eyes closed.

 I entered his office.  

 I was not comforted with her prayer.  I was freaked out and crazy. I've since learned of the detrimental physical effects of ongoing stress, such as the stress of being bullied by my principal and his sycophants. There are studies that talk of chromosome caps called telomeres.  Stress frays them.  My telomeres--I assure you--were frayed. 

 So I entered his conference room with my frayed telomeres, sleepless eyes, pale skin and clenched jaw, all covered in Jesus' blood.  Having frayed telomeres was not a good thing.  Being covered in the blood was. Though raised in a Christian home, I'd never really felt God's protective power.  I didn't in that moment either.  It's been since then, in the healing of the last two and one half years that I have begun to understand its peace, its truth, and its strength.

 No one is promised rose gardens and that school, tended by that gardening principal,  most certainly was not a rose garden. 

 I remember saying once spontaneously to the other assistant principal-the one who had absolutely and completely folded, "I am not scared."  That was early on.

 She used to say, " I love my boss." She most often said it when his counselor friend was nearby.  That way she, the AP, could most assure he would hear of her affection. 

 "I am not scared."  I still don't know why I said that.  God, even without my consciousness of it, was already seeing me through. 

 That assistant principal suffered a lot.  She often told me she believed she was put there to "save" him.  There wasn't much saving going on though.  He used her to sign off on many of his false documents.  He used her to witness his abuse.  Her name is on many papers.  Many of those papers destroyed people's careers and their lives.  

 During the worst of my hell there, I once dreamed of a dog; a mutt.  It was a fleeting dream, yet it was clear.  The dog's fur  in the dream was matted.  The dog was starving.  It snarled and yapped.  It represented, I think, all the suffering, innerly yapping educators at that school.  Some simply could not abide me outwardly saying, "This is not fair.  Let's do something about it." They snarled at me.  Tried to bite me. 

 I understand. 


3:04 pm est          Comments

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Public education is mobbed and bullied...

 "The prevention of bullying cannot begin in the classroom with the teacher and her/his students. That's the wrong approach.  It has to start with school district superintendents, and district directors, and regional superintendents, and regional directors, and then principals, and assistant principals, treating their employees with courage and respect.   That is not happening. We--and I mean educators throughout our nation's schools--have no true leadership on this issue.  We have no one who "gets it;" who "gets" that we will never, ever keep children safe from bullying without keeping employees in schools safe from the same.  In fact, many of those leading our school districts were/are the biggest bullies of all.  Either their bullying tactics are celebrated as 'tough yet effective' leadership or they were promoted to get them into regional and district offices so that they were away from children, but still making 'the big bucks.'

 So, to start in the class room with 'scared-they-will-lose-their-jobs-if-they-displease-the-boss' teachers is just plain futile."

7:28 am est          Comments

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A must read letter from a Florida parent...

Dear Commissioner Stewart and Members of the SCPS School Board,

My boys -7th and 8th graders- came home from Teague Middle School today saying that they will be on testing schedule Thursday and Friday because they have to take the FSA Writing “pre-test” or “benchmark” or whatever it is being called. First of all, I heard from teachers that this was coming but I was hoping that by some bit of grace that maybe we would escape it.

It is the tenth week of school. I know that the state is spinning this as an assessment so that teachers will know from where the students are starting. But again, it’s the 10th week of school. Every single ELA teacher in the county has done their own assessments (which have been valid for years) well prior to the 50th day of school. And my boys have AMAZING ELA teachers and I trust them implicitly. The over use of standardized testing is telling the teachers that you do not trust their judgement, experience, or education to assess their students on their own. Big data rules. Our kids and teachers are reduced to nothing but numbers.

This test is not on the official “Seminole County Testing Schedule” nor the State of Florida Department of Education Testing Schedule. I fully understand that the district is under legal obligation to administer the assessments that are put forth by the state. I also know that SCPS has been in contact with the state concerning high-stakes testing. So with that, Commissioner Stewart, I ask you, personally, not your testing office as you did this summer (who did not even know how many tests 4th graders would be taking this year), do you fully understand how this insane amount of testing plays out with our students, our children, MY KIDS?

Let me tell you. My 7th and 8th graders are both in Algebra I this year. The curriculum is for approximately 180 days, however the EOC for Algebra I could take place as early as April 20. That is 4.5 weeks before the end of school. That is one-eighth of the school year remaining. That is NOT the end of course. And since the EOC counts nearly as much as an entire semester of work (30% for EOC, 35% for each semester) that means that the teacher must review with them and prepare them for the test. So will they be forced to wrap up class by April 1? How exactly is a teacher NOT supposed to teach to the test when they are using a brand new “rigorous” curriculum with less time to teach it and to top it off, make that test count essentially ⅓ of their yearly grade? If the students do not understand something, there is no time to reteach it. They often cover two lessons in one day. Algebra is the basis for all upper level maths. This is a major problem; they NEED a strong base. My 7th grader is 12. Do not spew the nonsense of “career and college ready.” One bad day and an entire year’s worth of work (getting an A) could be shot.

Now you add an extra, off the “testing calendar” test that will not be used for any diagnostic purpose, but will only collect data for your precious VAM and my kids will lose even more instructional time. And not to mention, we had 9 week exams just last week. They had six big tests each and now the state is forcing them into yet another test. Why could this not be given in Language Arts as a normal prompt that they could work on for a few periods? Why are we disrupting two full days?

Over the summer your office blamed the district and then the legislature. I’m tired of the buck being passed. Mrs. Stewart, you are the one who is supposed to stand up for education, you are the one who is supposed to cultivate an atmosphere of the love of life-long learning in our schools. The buck stops with you. You are creating a bunch of little robots who can do nothing but take tests, you are squashing the love of learning and reading with which we parents sent them to school.

These are my babies, I love them, they are my heart. They have ONE childhood. ONE shot at a fabulous education and all you see them as is pawns in your high stakes testing game. Two ways to line the pockets of Pearson and AIR.

More rigor with less instruction and more testing is a recipe for disaster. Pull back on the high-stakes testing now. Delay the repercussions until or if we (not just you and the legislature, but the parents and teachers) can actually consider the FSA as a valid measure of education in Florida.

I look forward to your response,

Lynne Rigby

11:42 am est          Comments

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