Education Opinion

Blogging Blues

By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — December 15, 2007 4 min read
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I love to tell short stories and share interesting vignettes several times each week through this blog. How hard can it be? I didn’t get to write anything at all from Monday to Friday, although it was on my mind every day. I actually miss writing more when there’s no time to think much less write. Normally, I don’t blog on the weekend, but I feel guilty thinking about those of you who correspond with me and offer positive feedback to the obstacles of starting over.

It’s been a pretty rough week, but there were some real “highs” and some serious “lows” depending on your point of view. The highs included a ceremonial donation of books to our seventh and eighth grade students. The Second Annual Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame sponsored a Holiday Luncheon and Big Chief and Big Queen Book Club Book Presentation Ceremony. The Indians sang traditional songs with revised lyrics as the tambourines rang out in the school auditorium. It was fun but the older kids are too self-conscious to join in for a sing-along. They barely clapped to the music. This is strange behavior for children who live in the middle of Second Line central.

It was the first assembly this year for the middle school students, unless you count the meeting with the principal on the first day of school to set the stage for the year or the one gathering in October during which the students were read the riot act for their misbehaviors on the third floor. As the books were being awarded and pictures being taken, I kept wondering how many children could or would really read the books. I hope the teachers will use the gift books in class. A few children already have personal libraries at home. Most of them don’t own any books. Other children said that their personal libraries floated away in the flood waters the same as mine did.

We held our first Holiday Door Decoration Contest and most of the teachers were really into the spirit of the season. One or two didn’t participate at all. The winning teacher decorated her door with quilting squares of felt that each first grade student created for their class quilt. She even included a short story about the importance of quilting as an art. When we got ready to award the prizes, I was told that one of the gift wrapped boxes had disappeared from the office counter where they had been on display. I hope the person who stole the box of chocolates enjoyed them. I had to rush out to the store and get a replacement gift 20 minutes before the presentation to the winners.

On Friday, we had a special board meeting to discuss applicants for our Assistant Principal vacancy. The Board decided to cast a wider net for applicants. I’m going to put an advertisement in the daily and weekly papers next week. We also have an excellent candidate for a Speech therapist and possibly a Social Worker. We’ve been using a specially funded support program called Louisiana Spirit for social work referrals. But, we need a full-time social worker of our own. The families need lots of assistance and someone to help them access the available resources.

Our TV/DVD combinations finally came on Friday. Lots of our supplies and materials are arriving. We hadn’t bought much because there was no inventory of what was already in the building or on order for our school. Now we know what we need to buy. The teachers will be very happy that, finally, they can use the DVDs that come with many of our teaching materials.

Now that we have a better idea of our funding, we will try to fill the remaining vacancies for a librarian, another math teacher and a social studies teacher for the middle school. The Recovery School District and some other charter schools overstaffed—not enough students enrolled. They will have to cut teacher positions. I hope to pick up one or two good teachers during the surplus process. I will write to the HR people I know to ask them for contacts. Some of these surplus teachers traveled a long way to work in the Big Easy. I’d hate to see them have to leave already.

Today, I attended a meeting sponsored by the Louisiana Justice Institute. The meeting was for parents of children with special needs. There were several organizations present whose representatives agreed to form an advocacy group. We’ll meet monthly to discuss solutions to the problems facing families whose children with disabilities can’t get required services.

We have one more week before the first semester ends. We haven’t formed a PTA yet. None of our children have been on a field trip. We’ve had one cultural resource activity. The school wide discipline plan is not in place and we have to give the employee handbook another review before it is final. We also have several overdue state grants to submit. These are just some of the reasons we knew we needed an Assistant Principal.

Finally, we have a new interim school leader due to the sudden departure of our school’s principal. She wasn’t fired and it was her decision to leave for personal reasons. I think she gave her best effort to opening the school. Some of the teachers are very sad to see her leave. The principal was allowed to choose the entire staff and a few of the teachers signed on because of their personal loyalty to her. They are angry, feeling betrayed and confused. I think the anger of one or two is misdirected toward the TCSA Board. I also believe that a handful of teachers are afraid of the future and their job security, in spite of the fact that they have signed contracts. Others are looking forward to the change in administration. I have hope that the staff will have loyalty to the school and its students. Change is rarely comfortable. We have a two week vacation after December 21. I’m looking forward to the break as much as the students are looking forward to their toys and gifts.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.