I get email from the people with whom I work all the time. Not that I know many or most of them. They come to me in the form of surveys and exhortations for which educators are known. We are all fighting good fight, after all. None of us wants to see the death of public education, but according to these emails, that is certainly the choice with which we are faced.
That and the perils of ending a sentence with a preposition, especially when writing to teachers.
In the past week, I was reminded of the responses of the rank and file of our local educator's union. We were asked to call out any places that we saw waste in our district. "Cut from the top down!" was the cry heard loud and clear, with some taking the time to specify departments and even individuals that they felt were especially in need of having their jobs eliminated. The Central Office, an almost stereotypically easy target for any union's anger was the problem, and the solution was dissolution. "Why do we need," started many of the rhetorical suggestions. The eternally embattled classroom teachers struck back with all the force of a group that had already sacrificed so very much and were not willing to let another budget cut force them into buying more pencils and paper for their pupils. They really wanted to see that red ink resolved in some other way. "Get rid of," came the responses. You could hear their anguished cries calling out from their electronically dispatched missives.
And then there was mine. I suggested that it was time to stop pitting ourselves against one another. It was time to stop begging for scraps. The values of our country seem to have slipped from those lofty assurances of education being the cornerstone of democracy and no child will be left behind. We are all educators, from custodians to superintendent and all those positions in between. We shouldn't be fighting over scraps. We shouldn't be pointing fingers at one another.
So much for my Mister Smith moment. My voice was all but drowned out by the angry mob. Later that same week I received an email from our superintendent, telling me and everyone with a district email address that the magic number for budget cuts this year had grown to more than fifteen million dollars. Along with this lovely piece of news came the announcement of a Voluntary Salary Donation Effort. It was our superintendent's hope that this VSDE would help defray costs for the current school year, and save money moving forward. Nearly ten percent of of "confidential management employees" had opted in to this program by week's end. Then there was this chilling addendum: "While the initiative has not been extended to other employees at this time, I am personally committed to working with employees and our labor partners to tackle the current challenges together."
And so my dream of us all working together came true. In the nastiest possible way.