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March 23, 2010

I am having trouble settling down to work this morning. If truth be told, I am still in my pajamas. I get up, I sit down. I read some email. I get up and move some things around. I come back. I need to write an email and I don’t want to send it.

Last night’s school board meeting was a doozy. I went early for my committee meeting, which was fairly pedestrian. We continued through the discussion of program revisions without any significant new information. We discussed an action timetable. We felt like we were accomplishing something. We fielded comments from the audience. The meeting adjourned on time and I took a seat in the back of the room, which was already filling up, for the board meeting. They’d moved the meeting from the band room to the gym, which should have tipped me off to what was coming. There must have been 250 people there at least, many of them teachers. The first part of the board meeting was a public hearing on the dismissal of teachers, which is required by law when more than 150% of the average annual dismissal rate is exceeded. That number, we were informed, is exceeded when 5 teachers are dismissed. Last night they dismissed 75, more than a third of the teachers in our district.

I could only stay for the first hour of the meeting. 15 people had signed up to speak, and no doubt more spoke too. Teacher after teacher, parent after parent got up and spoke, many eloquently, about what is happening. There was anger, hurt. There were a lot of tears. One longtime teacher –long since tenured, but being fired because he is only certified to teach P.E., which is being eliminated, had to stop and walk out of the room in the middle of his speech because he was so upset. It was agony.

The worst news — because Illinois has once again cut the amount of money they are sending the schools to pay down what they owe, even more teachers were let go. AJ’s grade at his particular school took the worst hit. The replaced a 4th grade class with a blended 3rd and 4th grade class. This means the 4th grades will have 34 students per classroom next year, in rooms that are already crowded and overheated with 26.

I can’t afford to give up on the public schools, but I feel like part of me just did.

I need to report on this meeting to others and I can’t bear to rehash the details.

I need to get over my current emotional response to the situation, because I’m being interviewed by the local paper this afternoon about gifted education. I really hope I don’t say something that can be misquoted.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. eleanorio permalink
    March 23, 2010 10:05 am

    This is horrible news. I know I was not happy when Buddy Boy was put in a blended class (three of them actually), but it actually worked out to his advantage. Your situation sounds insupportable. Good luck resolving it and finding something that works for AJ. Best of luck on your interview.

  2. March 23, 2010 10:20 am

    Lots of luck on the interview.

  3. March 23, 2010 11:24 am

    If blended classes are done well, they can be fabulous, especially for kids who need extra challenge like AJ. But, I’m floored by that 34 number. It’s almost impossible to differentiate and meet individual kids’ needs with those kind of numbers at the elementary level.

    Hopefully things will start turning around soon on the economic front so that your district will be able to rehire some of those let go. Good luck with the interview!

  4. March 23, 2010 11:44 am

    I totally agree on blended classes. But I don’t think they can be effective when there are 34 kids in a classroom, probably with no aide (you get aides only if there is a student whose IEP requires it) and with a teacher most likely inexperienced with multiage rooms — our school has never done it and the district hasn’t done it at all in years. I’d also feel better about multiage if AJ were on the bottom end instead of the top. Instead, I think it’s going to mean even less high end work. Currently contemplating petitioning for AJ to skip a grade, even though I don’t think it’s the best idea. The next class up is a lot smaller.

  5. freshhell permalink
    March 23, 2010 12:35 pm

    And what happens when everything falls apart? When test scores plummet and teachers simply can’t keep up? Gah.

  6. March 23, 2010 12:49 pm

    oh lord… I feel for you

  7. March 23, 2010 2:58 pm

    Skipping a grade can be a very good experience. We don’t regret anything–and it was third grade, too.

  8. March 23, 2010 10:01 pm

    I read this earlier and couldn’t think of anything nice to say. No, post-Jeanne, I think that skipping a grade might not be a bad option. My sister did that, briefly. It would have worked very well had she not been so easily influenced by boys at that age.

    re: your earlier mentions of homeschooling- could you join a homeschooling co-op that would allow AJ some socialization and exposure to other teaching influences? Or form one? Or tell me to jump off a cliff? 🙂

  9. March 23, 2010 10:17 pm

    Skipping a grade is a possibility. I spoke with the gifted teacher about it a couple of months ago and we agreed that while he could handle it intellectually, his maturity level suggests he might be better off with his own age group. But given the new situation, I think it’s a possibility we should revisit. The real advantage is that AJ would move to middle school and would be out of the overcrowded building. Not only that, but in middle school there are to be dedicated accelerated classrooms, assuming he’d still be in an accelerated program if he skipped a grade. A homeschool coop has also been discussed (as has a charter school, which is a real possibility, but couldn’t be put together by next year). I have a good friend who’s been part of a homeschool coop for many years (she herself is unschooling her kids, the oldest of which is high school aged and is now doing much of his coursework at community college). She’s been a great resource. My problem with homeschooling is that I won’t be able to work, which I really need to do. And I’m finding the choice of curriculum a daunting task. And most importantly, I think it would be hard on our family, which already has a little too much togetherness, seeing as two of us don’t get out much and the other one isn’t old enough to drive.

  10. March 24, 2010 8:10 am

    AJ should definitely still be in an accelerated program at the middle school if he skips a grade. There’s testing for this (natch) and sometimes psychologists, but also the gifted program people (if any are left) should be helping you with his placement in the new grade. According to some of our local gifted program people, the difficulty in skipping a grade can sometimes be that then in another year or two, the kid needs to skip yet another grade. Then you really do get into size and maturity issues.

  11. freshhell permalink
    March 25, 2010 7:53 am

    Actually, skipping a grade sounds like the best alternative. That might not be such a bad thing, the maturity issue not withstanding. It will be sad when our kids are *really* in middle school. While I like Dusty at nine (of course I’ve enjoyed her at all the ages), I feel her childhood and child-self slipping away from me. Like trying to catch fish from a stream with my bare hands.

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