Thursday, April 22, 2010

Selling Your Soul to the Devil

When I quit teaching in the KCMO school district in 1990, I explained to astonished friends that I had grown tired of selling my soul every year to the devil. I needed to find a place where evil wasn't done on a daily basis, both to children and adults.

On returning to teaching, one of the things I have most valued in the last four years was that I worked for an ethical employer. Though an urban core district with all the inherent problems therein, I have deeply respected their approach to education. By promoting superintendents and administrators from within, USD 500 in Kansas City, Kansas put the value of their employees first. By working diligently to increase test scores and provide a coherent, cohesive, seamless curriculum across the district's varied schools, they put the educational advancement of their very diverse students first. I have been unfailingly proud to be a part of this district.

Yesterday, though, I learned disturbing news. A women I have grown to value and rely upon, a woman who always put the children first, a woman who added great value to our Special Education department, was "non-renewed" and told she would not have job for the next school year. The news wasn't delivered nicely. She simply got an e-mail and was told to report to the Director of Personnel's office at 2:15 on Tuesday evening. The Director handed her a form letter telling her that her services were no longer needed, as the SPED department had decided to "go another direction" and the position of transition counselor would now require full teaching certification. This woman had been hired 22 years earlier because she had training to work with adults with disabilities in finding career help. She was hired because she had abilities beyond those of a certified teacher.

Yes, 22 years she had worked for the district. Now her services were no longer needed.

This is the way my previous employer had always handled things -- throw out the baby with the bathwater. Damned are the teachers and doubly damned are the students. I stomped around my third floor for awhile, spouting off. I hugged the sobbing woman in her office. I told everybody that had a modicum of power within in my school and that I would do "anything" required to try and keep the lady in her job.

And at 2:30 my department chair came to find me to explain that my principal was at that very moment in meetings with the Personnel Director to save the lady's job.

Arrangements have now been made to ensure that this fine, competent lady will be employed in the fall of 2010. She has been enrolled at the same college I attend, in the same program, actually -- and the district is paying for the courses she needs to earn her teaching certification. If at all possible, she will be placed in our high school -- but if not, a promise has been given that she will be employed in the fall.

This is why I work in the Kansas City, KANSAS school district. It isn't perfect. The initial release of this good person should have been handled much more humanly. But when things went array, powerful people stepped up and spoke out and made the right things happen.

The administration and teachers at MY school have earned even more of my respect. I certainly landed in the right place four years ago. They worked together to save my job the first year I taught with them. They have gone the extra mile to help a respected colleague again. Some educators really do get it -- to have a good educational system you have to treat your employees decently.


Donna said...


Margaret said...

Our district admin is the devil and just about as inhumane as yours, but our building folks are fantastic. Like you said, there's a lot we can deal with when we're surrounded by supportive, caring people!!