Thursday, February 4, 2010

Today=Disappointment. BIG TIME

I walked out of a school meeting today at 5:00 p.m. Why so late? Because today our Supt. told us that the federal gov't wants to restructure our school. Our school has always had issues with passing tests. That's because our school has a group of students who have lots and lots of issues. 80% Free and Reduced Lunch. Many of our kids come to us reading several grades BELOW grade level. One of the most diverse schools in the state. Title I school. Kids with broken families. Kids with broken lives. But you know what? They show up to school to learn. And I am there to teach them. I am there to counsel them. I am there to parent them. I am there to guide them. I am there to help them. I am there to support them. And what do we get in return? A slap in the face.

This is all coming down from our State Board of Education per the federal government. The one I support. The one I voted for. I never thought education reform would mean this for ME. for MY school. like THIS. Option one: close our school. Option two: get rid of our principal and 50% of our staff. Option 3: become a charter school by hiring an outside agency to "run" it. Option four: agree to make some major changes which also involves losing staff and the admin. What option would YOU choose? NONE of them. They all suck. They are all unfair. Listening to the Supt. today felt like a punch in the gut. Everyone was upset. There were tears from some, anger from others. How can we lose our principal? our VP? They are the BEST in the district. We have the best teachers. How can we lose anyone. Who would they choose? How would they choose? it is all very upsetting. I cried. Words cannot explain how special Cascade is to me. I could have left that place a long time ago, but through thick and thin, I've stayed. There's just so much about those kids, the staff, and that school that has me so attached.

And I think the worst part of it all is that I feel like my hands are tied. There is very little wiggle room for boycotting this, for fighting this. And that makes it so frustrating. It doesn't matter that we face so many challenges teaching our kids. It doesn't matter to the government officials at all. We are just supposed to teach them and make them pass. No matter what. I WISH it was that easy. Hell, if that were the case, we'd have a lot more people signing up to become a teacher.

I have always been a big supporter of Obama. That's no lie. But this stuff--this education reform is super disappointing to me and it makes me feel like I can't breathe. :( I wrote a letter to him tonight and I really really hope he reads it. I know it's wishful thinking, but I hope someone important reads that letter and responds. I hope really hope the feds change their minds about what reform should REALLY look like. Because honestly, throwing money at the school and getting rid of teachers and admin won't change the kinds of kids we're teaching at CMS. But my job is not done. I have more people to email: our school board members. Members of the State Board of Ed., OPSI, Randy D., and even my local representatives. I'm not finished yet.

Here's the letter I sent to Obama tonight:

Dear President Obama,

Today, I was disappointed after I left a meeting held at my "failing" school. I was told we had 4 options to choose from in order to begin the “reform” process. All of them were options I didn’t want to choose. Why? Because none of them seemed fair. Our teachers are amazing. Our administration is the best we've had in the 10 years I've taught there. Our kids struggle with so many issues outside of school and come to us as middle schoolers mostly reading way below grade level. We all work so hard to support and teach our students and help them reach the highest level possible. We push our kids out of their learning comfort zones. I guess what I am most disappointed in is the fact that nothing is being taken into consideration. 80% of our students are part of the Free & Reduced Lunch program. We have one of the most diverse schools in the state of WA, including a large population of ELL and Special Ed, AND our kids live in poverty. Sadly, none of that matters to your administration. I sat listening to you, Mr. Obama speak in Jefferson, Iowa (we were visiting family during the holidays) when you were campaigning saying you wanted to reform education, but I didn’t think it would mean punishing my students and my colleagues. I didn’t think it would mean my school would have to go through massive, ridiculous changes like I heard today. I sat there, listening to you, 6.5 months pregnant, crying and praying for change, hoping you would be our next President. I have always been one of your biggest supporters. But today, I left that meeting feeling hopeless and extremely disappointed in the decisions your administration is making. What if my colleague next door is asked to leave? What if I am? I just wish you would have asked us first what we, the teachers thought. I feel like we are always blamed for not teaching our students, when, really, it is quite the opposite, especially at our inner city “failing” school. I love my students. I love teaching them. I love that school. And the fact that everything we’ve worked to build there is being ripped out from underneath of us is just heart-breaking. ☹ Please, I am begging you to generate some additional options to help our school. I know you are busy, Mr. Obama, but I hope to hear from you.

Sarah Erdmann, a devoted but concerned educator

I only had 2500 characters so I had to scale it down. As angry as I was when I left school today, the anger turned into utter disappointment. For the first time in a long time, my hopes have been severely crushed.


Briana said...

I'm sorry. It does totally suck. The boys came home today with letters from the SAU (School Advisory Union) that announced that for the 2010-2011 school year we have to share our principal with another school. There are 5 elementary schools in this town/city and only ours and one other have to share. Completely sucks. I love our principal. She knows ALL of the students. She visits them in their classrooms on their birthdays and brings them a special pencil She comes to each and every one of our parent meetings, even on her birthday (so we made her a cake!) She is just so much fun and I'm selfish and don't want to share her.

chrissyrudd said...

I am PISSED for you!!! Send a letter to both your senators and reps too, because remember it is congress that make federal legislation. Personally invite them to your school. Make a case that getting rid of the faculty and staff at your school will only make learning harder for the kids because you know them, you care about them and you bust your butt to make sure they learn despite the odds. Speak directly (go jump on their desks if you can) to your state legislators and governor, because NCLB mandates to the states, but leaves states in charge of how mandates are met in order to receive the funding. NCLB is a disaster. To hold schools accountable, control needs to be put back in the hands of local communities and states. Washington DC cannot reform the education system in each state because they don't know the students. You can't determine what's best for a student from tests, you have to know them and individualize their educational plan, and that can only be done by the teacher. Teachers need to be able to do their job! The other thing, and I don't know what your state laws are, but Iowa recently changed the cap on Charter schools in order to get "Race to the Top" funds (a bunch of BS that is, but that' a whole other soap box). Anyway, there are examples, I'll try to find them, where the teachers and staff of a school received the charter and ran it as a coop, with teachers in charge. I don't know if your laws allow that, but I'd check into it. If you have a coesive team, that cares about those kids and is willing to fight for it, that may be an option? Make a stink, get sympathetic media and local polititians involved. This is not the way to improve schools!

If you need anything, let me know.