Punching Out

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Edison Schools Inc. offers big paychecks and perks galore in return for long hours. But teachers in San Francisco say the deal is no bargain.

Kathy Fleming and Dina Deligiorgis were in a hurry. It was late on a Friday afternoon last May, and the two teachers were driving through downtown San Francisco, rushing to get to the board of education office before it closed at 5:30. "We were almost out of gas," Fleming recalls. "We were hoping we'd make it."

Arriving a few minutes before the doors locked, Fleming and Deligiorgis dropped off seven envelopes, one for each board member. Inside each envelope, on which the teachers had written "URGENT," was a copy of a letter signed by all but six of their 31 colleagues at Thomas A. Edison Charter Academy. For much of the past year, the faculty at the school had complained of long hours and a crushing workload. Now, with the letter, the teachers issued an ultimatum: Do something, or we will quit.

Within days, the contents of the letter had been leaked to the press, and a simmering debate over whether private companies should run public schools was boiling over. Edison Charter is one of 79 schools in 16 states managed by Edison Schools Inc., the controversial New York City-based company started by entrepreneur Christopher Whittle. (It is a coincidence that the school and the company have the same name.) Two years ago, former San Francisco school Superintendent Bill Rojas turned to Whittle's company, formerly known as the Edison Project, as a sort of last-ditch effort to save the troubled elementary school, long considered one of the city's worst and well-known for its rock-bottom test scores, racially divided faculty, and high staff turnover. Most students at the K-5 school are low-income minorities who are bused in from other parts of the city.

Despite intense opposition from the local teachers' union, the school board approved a deal with the company, and, in August 1998, Edison Elementary opened its doors as Edison Charter. It was an old school with a brand-new attitude. "I look at Edison as an intervention opportunity, a chance to do something different," Barbara Karvelis, the school's principal, said at the time. A $1.3 million grant from Don Fisher, founder and chairman of The Gap, paid for a full makeover of Edison Charter's well-used building, which dates to the 1920s. Walls were painted, and new computers were installed.

‘We are trying to create something different ... I would say that most of our teachers like working for us.’

John Chubb,
Chief Education Officer,
Edison Schools Inc.

The opportunity for a fresh start persuaded a handful of the old staff to stay on, but most of the teachers Edison hired were new to the school, and many were new to the profession. Company officials assured them that it would be a challenging place to work. They would put in long hours—perhaps more than many public school teachers—but they would be amply rewarded, as well.

This is something of a credo for Edison. "Our goal," says John Chubb, the company's chief education officer, "is to create a professional environment so we can attract the best people to come work for us." Edison schools pay approximately 10 percent more than conventional public schools, and the company boasts a sliding salary scale that rewards classroom instructors who take on roles such as lead teacher or curriculum coordinator. At many schools, teachers even have a chance to get stock options after their first year.

The company also promises everyday perks not often found in education. "Edison provides teachers the career development, resources, and opportunities that talented professionals deserve," promotional materials proclaim. Included in the package are four to six weeks of training prior to a school's opening, plus professional development throughout the year. Edison teachers also get what is the ultimate luxury for many harried educators—two periods a day for individual study, mentoring, peer coaching, or planning. "We are trying to create something different," Chubb says, "and I would say that most of our teachers like working for us."

Initially, Edison Charter teachers were excited at the prospect of joining the company. The pay was certainly alluring, and some were intrigued by the idea of building a new kind of public school. Exempt from the district's contract with the city's teachers, they agreed to shoulder a heavier workload than their counterparts in conventional schools. Though San Francisco schools generally hold classes 6 hours a day, 184 days a year, Edison Charter would be run according to the company's master plan: a 205-day calendar, a 7-hour day for kindergarten and 1st grade students, and 8 hours of class time for students in grades 2 and above.

It wasn't long, however, before the San Francisco teachers began to sour on the deal they'd made. A few of the 27 who signed the letter contend that Edison failed to deliver its promised training and support, while others argue that its curriculum tied their hands. All say the long day and school calendar, while good ideas in theory, amount to a recipe for teacher burnout. Indeed, though the San Francisco teachers are the first Edison faculty to threaten to quit en masse, turnover is high at the company's schools. According to its own statistics, Edison loses about a quarter of all its teachers each year.

Edison's teacher turnover is 23 percent, compared to the national average of 14 percent.

Edison officials acknowledge that turnover is a problem and say they're working to fix that. And they admit that the company demands a lot from its teachers. But they make no apologies. For in many Edison schools around the country, teachers are quite satisfied, even thrilled, with the company's teaching culture—long hours and all. Some veterans say they've never enjoyed the classroom so much; returning to the relatively stratified culture of
conventional public schools would be impossible.

"It's not for everybody," says Gaynor McCown, Edison's senior vice president for marketing and communications. "You can't really hide at an Edison school. You have to be part of the community. So our turnover is high. But on one level, we view that as one of the positive aspects of Edison because it gives us a chance to ensure that we have teachers in the building who want to be there."

When Christopher Whittle founded the Edison Project in 1991, he envisioned a national system of for-profit private schools. At the time, Whittle, a former magazine publisher, was a budding education entrepreneur; two years before, he had caused a stir with the launch of Channel One, the advertising-supported classroom television news show. (He has since sold the venture.) With Edison, he vowed that, by the year 2010, there would be 1,000 for-profit schools serving more than 2 million students. To show that he meant business, he hired Yale University President Benno Schmidt Jr. to lead the effort. But when Whittle couldn't raise the $2.5 billion necessary to finance his plan, he switched gears, turning Edison into a company that manages public schools. In August 1995, Edison opened its first four schools: Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Academy, in Mt. Clemens, Michigan; Washington Elementary, in Sherman, Texas; Dodge-Edison Elementary, in Wichita, Kansas; and Boston Renaissance Charter, in Boston.

Despite some bumps along the way—including continued but softening opposition from teachers' unions and other privatization critics—Edison has grown to become the nation's largest for-profit manager of public schools. Twenty-nine new Edison schools will open this fall, bringing the total number to 108, with 58,000 students. In a recent speech at the National Press Club, Whittle noted that enrollment at Edison schools has increased more than 50 percent each year. Using an interesting—and no doubt intentionally provocative—choice of words, he called the company the "fastest-growing school system in the United States." Last year, Edison went public, raising about $122 million. Its stock, which trades on NASDAQ, was selling at about $22 per share in early August.

Edison is the ‘fastest- growing school system in the United States.’

Christopher Whittle,
Edison Project

Edison is often asked to "fix" failing schools, and its turnaround strategy hinges on a plan that requires kids to work harder and longer than they would in traditional schools. "Over a 13-year school career," the company's promotional material notes, "Edison students will spend the equivalent of four additional years in school as compared to students in typical American schools." The extra time is essential to the Edison school design, officials say, because the company's curriculum is comprehensive. It covers fundamentals (90 minutes of reading and 60 minutes of math a day in K-5 schools), core courses such as science and social studies, and so-called "specials"—art, music, Spanish, physical education, and the like—often squeezed out of the traditional school schedule.

In San Francisco, the company brought its plan to bear on one of the city's longest-running educational nightmares. Ken Romines, who led Edison Elementary from 1993 to 1995, wrote a book about his experience called A Principal's Story. The school, he said, was an "academic pariah" when he arrived. Though test scores at the other 73 elementary schools in San Francisco were climbing, Edison's were dropping. "Chaos and resentment reigned" among the staff, he wrote, and the teacher turnover rate climbed as high as 68 percent. Violence was common, and the school averaged 20 suspensions a year—five times the district norm. A previous principal had had his finger broken by a 5th grade girl.

In 1995, the district completely restaffed the school, but even that drastic measure failed to spark improvement. Then, in the spring of 1998, San Francisco Superintendent Bill Rojas pitched his plan to make Edison a charter school and turn its operation over to Whittle. A fierce battle ensued, with privatization opponents arguing that the proposal undermined public education. In the end, however, the board approved the plan in a 5-2 vote. Edison was coming to town.

Alison Gray was 24 years old at the time and had just finished her teacher training at San Francisco's New College. She sent her résumé to a number of schools, including Edison Charter, even though she wasn't thrilled about privatization. When Barbara Karvelis called, Gray agreed to meet, but just to practice her interviewing skills.

Talking with Karvelis and the staff, however, changed Gray's tune. "I was kind of wowed by the teachers and by the school," she says. Edison's pay scale was appealing, too; at the time, the company's beginning teachers made almost $34,000 a year, nearly $3,000 more than what the city's other rookies made. Offered a position teaching kindergarten, Gray accepted.

Her first year proved a nightmare. "The discipline problems were just too much," she says. "It was really, really hard. I cried every day." The company, she says, gave the teachers very little training on how to deal with disruptive students. On the other hand, "Edison trainers from New York would come in and make sure you had certain things on the walls—charts, signs, things like that. And these kids couldn't even read! It was ridiculous."

‘If you're going to be married to your job, it's perfect.’

Alison Gray,
former Edison Inc. teacher

Gray also found herself logging marathon days at school. She would arrive between 6:30 and 7 in the morning, giving her some prep time before she supervised breakfast for students, beginning at 7:40. Class would start at 8:20. Nearly eight hours later, at 3:40, the kids would go home, but Gray would stay for at least another two hours—making phone calls to parents, meeting with other teachers, and preparing for the next day. "Then I'd stagger home and collapse," she says.

After three months, things improved slightly when the school day for kindergarten students was shortened by about an hour. (Kindergartners were originally kept longer than the seven hours required by Edison's plan because of the district's bus schedule.) Still, Gray wasn't going home any earlier. Meetings with other teachers consumed the two periods that she didn't teach, leaving no time for planning.

At the end of the year, Gray tried to find another job, to no avail. (About 15 teachers, she says, did quit.) So she stayed at Edison, determined to give it another chance. She and her students moved up to 1st grade, and Gray was asked to be a lead teacher. Though her discipline problems didn't disappear, she did manage her classroom better. Still, Gray found herself buried in work. By the end of the year, she was burned out and fed up with the Edison regimen. "If you're going to be married to your job, it's perfect," she says wryly. But Gray had a life outside the school—she and her boyfriend were going through a rough patch—and she had no time for anything but work.

One of Gray's colleagues, Yvette Fagan, a 10-year veteran of San Francisco elementary schools and the district's 1996 Teacher of the Year, tells a similar story. When she first heard of the city's deal with the company, she was intrigued. "I thought there might be some things that public education could learn from this experiment," she says. Fagan was looking for a new career challenge and was attracted by the prospect of turning around a beleaguered school. Edison's career-ladder pay plan also proved an incentive. "I liked the idea that if you worked hard and took on more responsibilities, you'd get paid more," she recalls.

‘I said, "I'm outta here. I'm not working at a place where I can't use my mind."’

Yvette Fagan,
former Edison Inc. teacher

The first year at Edison Charter, Fagan worked harder than she had at any other school. The paperwork alone, she says, was overwhelming. "The report cards, for instance," she says. "They're beautiful documents, but they take an enormous amount of time to write. They're very comprehensive, very long, about four to six pages on each student, and they take a lot of time. I think the first time I did it, I spent about 45 minutes on each one. And we had to do them four times a year." At most other San Francisco schools, she says, report cards are issued twice a year.

The curriculum, too, required lots of prep time. Designed by the company, it's used in every Edison school and includes several well-regarded off-the-shelf programs, including the Success for All reading program, developed at Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Chicago's Everyday Mathematics curriculum. "I loved the Everyday Math program," Fagan says, "but I spent a minimum of a half-hour each day planning the next day's lesson." As a veteran, Fagan handled the workload better than some new teachers, but she sympathized with their plight. "I saw them struggling," she says, "and I helped them as much as I could."

At the end of her first year, when other teachers threatened to leave, Fagan tried to persuade them to give the school another chance. She felt they were making progress with the students and needed more time. But during her second year, Fagan herself considering quitting after Edison's curriculum coordinator in New York told her she couldn't teach a series of Shakespeare plays. The teacher recalls, "I said, 'I'm outta here. I'm not working at a place where I can't use my mind.'"

But she stayed and, with Karvelis' blessing, taught the Shakespeare plays anyway. Her students—3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who were reading at a 6th grade level—took on Romeo and Juliet,As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Macbeth. "They really got into it," Fagan says. "And I had the repertoire to do it. But Edison wasn't happy about it."

(Ana Tilton, Edison's western regional vice president, says that she's not familiar with this incident but that Fagan's characterization of Edison's actions doesn't sound right. "That's not our style," she says, claiming that teachers have plenty of opportunity to put their own stamp on the reading curriculum.)

After this run-in, Fagan concluded that independent-minded teachers—herself included—might not be cut out to work for Edison. "The program is too rigid," she says.

According to Kathy Fleming, Edison Charter's physical education instructor, the teachers complained frequently to Edison officials about a number of issues. But Fleming contends their protests fell on deaf ears. By January, morale among the staff had sunk so low that Karvelis flew to New York to meet with John Chubb. "She was really trying to fix things," Fleming says. But nothing seemed to change.

Edison did take some steps to help. Last fall, Tilton met one-on-one with every teacher at the school. And in the middle of the school year, the company sent someone to help the teachers learn how to cope with disruptive students. "We heard the teachers' issues loud and clear," Chubb says, "and my assumption was that the details would be addressed in the spring. But, clearly, the teachers were not getting the message."

To complicate matters, Karvelis announced in April that she would not return in the fall. (She declined to say why.) The Edison company began looking for her replacement. "We thought the teachers would work out some of their concerns with the new principal," Chubb says.

‘Most Edison Teachers Ready to Quit in Fall,’ shouted the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Finally, on May 3, the teachers convened after school for what Fleming described as a "highly charged" meeting. "We felt that we had one last chance to make some progress," she says. "It was either do or die." But the meeting ended without a plan for action. So Fleming and Deligiorgis took it upon themselves to draft a letter to the board of education. "We have experienced frustration," they wrote, "at [Edison's] lack of willingness to negotiate" any change in the length of the school day and the school year. To their surprise, 27 of the school's 33 teachers signed the letter. That's when Fleming and Deligiorgis made their Friday afternoon dash to the school board. It was agreed that another copy of the letter, without the signatures, would be sent to Chubb.

"Most Edison Teachers Ready to Quit in Fall," shouted the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle when the letter became public. Margaret Brodkin, executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth and one of the city's most outspoken critics of for-profit schools, told the newspaper, "The letter reveals the underlying problems with for-profit education—secrecy, lack of accountability, exploitation of teachers, and making company profits rather than children's education the bottom line." Board member Jill Wynns, who had opposed hiring Edison in 1998, called for an independent review of the situation.

Within days, the Edison teachers learned that Chubb was coming to San Francisco to try to work things out. Their threatened exodus had caught the company's attention. "We were hopeful," Fleming says.

The San Francisco teachers are not the first to find themselves at odds with the Edison way of doing things. The company's teacher turnover rate is 23 percent, compared with the national average of 14 percent. Company officials say Edison's rate is skewed by a few campuses where attrition is 30 percent or more, but they acknowledge it's a problem. "I think there are a variety of things that play into that," Gaynor McCown says. "For one, starting a new school is always tough. Not everybody wants to change, even though they may think they want that change initially. They may decide after a year that it's not for them. They may not want to work a longer school day or change a direction they've been going in for years. Working at an Edison school is not for everybody."

Company officials say they are working hard to reduce teacher turnover and build stable and satisfied staffs. To that end, the company recently announced that it is moving to open its own teacher education colleges. Deborah McGriff, former superintendent of the Detroit schools and a longtime Edison executive, was named president of the new initiative. "The possibility of opening our own teacher colleges," she said in a press release, "is a natural extension of our current commitment to professional development." It also makes good financial sense. As Whittle noted in the release, Edison-brand teacher colleges can "drive quality in our 'core business,' and they can be an important new business for us in their own right."

McCown suggested that I visit a school where Edison's vision of teaching is working, so I spent some time at Wyatt-Edison Charter in Denver. The school, housed in a beautifully restored 1887 building, opened its doors in 1998, the same year San Francisco turned over Edison Elementary to the Edison company. Both schools serve a predominantly poor, minority student body. But when it comes to the teachers, the schools couldn't be more different. Most of those I met at Wyatt-Edison gushed about the company and its school design. We work hard, they all agreed, but there are ample rewards.

Teaching for Edison ‘appeals to the overachiever, the perfectionist, the person who wants to do everything. ’

Kelsey Linderman ,
Edison Inc. teacher,
Wyatt-Edison Charter

"It's a demanding school," 3rd grade teacher Tera Gottbrath told me. She was sitting at her desk in her basement classroom the day after the school had closed for summer. When I walked in, she was using her laptop computer—Edison provides them free of charge to teachers and students in grades 3 and above—to tap into the company's Internet bulletin board for teachers. Edison has high expectations, she told me, and the workload is much heavier than at a regular teaching job.

This sounded like what I had heard in San Francisco, but then she added: "They treat you like a professional, and that's why it's worth it. Teachers have always gotten a bad rap for having it easy, for working just eight or nine months a year and being able to leave at 2:30. I feel that if we want to improve the reputation of the profession, we need to be putting more into it."

Gottbrath's colleague Kelsey Linderman was busy cleaning up her 4th grade classroom. She began working at Wyatt in 1998, just after finishing graduate school. "It's a long day," she told me. "Before I got married, I was here on weekends all the time. This year, I've been able to step back a bit. And our principal has really encouraged us not to come in on weekends."

Teaching at an Edison school, Lindermann admitted, appeals to "the overachiever, the perfectionist, the person who wants to do everything. And teaching is like a bottomless pit. You can put more and more into it, but there's always more to do. I would never say it's easy working at an Edison school. But I love it. I wouldn't be happy working anywhere else."

Edison offers opportunities for professional growth that most public schools can't match, Linderman said. "For instance, I was asked to be a lead teacher after my first year of teaching. At a regular school, that never would have happened. It would have been seniority-based."

"Strengths are really recognized here," Cynthia Twyman told me. Though she was hired in 1998 as a 4th grade teacher, she soon left the classroom to oversee the school's reading program and to work for Edison as a regional curriculum coordinator. This fall, she'll be the school's director of curriculum and student achievement.

Twyman raved about Edison's curriculum. "It's laid out for you," she said, "but it's thoughtful and it's research-based. I wouldn't call it scripted—but I would call it structured. And there is room for creativity. Yes, there are objectives, but there is tons of room for your own personal slant on things. Plus, the support system is amazing. No one falls on her face here—there's always someone to mentor someone else."

On the day I visited Wyatt, the school had just received its annual "customer satisfaction" report, the results of a staff survey taken by the Gordon S. Black Corporation. For the category "overall satisfaction of teachers and staff," the school got a score of 7.2 on a 10- point scale. For all Edison schools, the score averaged 6.3. Clearly, morale at the school is high, although several teachers have decided not to return next year; one, a first-year teacher, wants to spend more time with her young daughter. "And last year, there was a big turnover, quite frankly," the school's principal, Karen Le Fever, told me.

Still, the teachers' allegiance to Edison is such that many don't consider themselves Denver public school employees. "I came here to work for Edison," said veteran math teacher Sandy Steward. Eva Hernandez, a kindergarten teacher brimming with enthusiasm for Edison, went so far as to say, "This is the new wave of teaching."

Just days before John Chubb flew to San Francisco to meet with them, the Edison Charter teachers sent him another letter containing several proposed changes in their contract. They wanted to work 195 days instead of 205; shorten the school day by one hour for the 1st and 2nd grades; and get a salary increase that would enable them to make 25 percent more than other teachers in San Francisco, not just 10 percent. They figured that even if Edison met their demands for a shorter day and school calendar, they would still be working about 40 percent more than other teachers in the city.

It was clear that an Us vs. Them atmosphere had descended on Edison Charter.

Contrary to popular belief, Edison has altered some aspects of its school design when hammering out agreements with local teachers' unions. In Peoria, Illinois, where the company manages two elementary schools, it shortened the school day and year in order to comply with an existing teachers' union contract. "It happens," McCown says. "We have to negotiate, and we have to figure out a way to meet people's needs. But we're not willing to make significant changes."

Chubb eventually agreed to eliminate 10 days from the school calendar and to shorten the school day by 30 minutes. He refused to meet the teachers' demand that they be paid 25 percent more than regular San Francisco teachers, but he agreed to maintain their 10 percent differential even when the city's other teachers get an expected big raise. He also promised the teachers a bonus of $1,250 each if they returned to Edison Charter for the 2000-2001 school year. What's more, he guaranteed every teacher an additional 5 percent bonus if the school were to receive three out of five stars in the company's student-performance rating.

It seemed as if the teachers were getting most of what they wanted. Yet by mid-June, when Chubb made his final offer, many of Edison Charter's teachers had already decided to quit. Some were skeptical that the school day could be shortened given the district's tight bus schedules. (In fact, that issue has yet to be resolved.) Others had simply given up, on both the school and the company.

When I visited the school in June, it was clear that an Us vs. Them atmosphere had descended on Edison Charter. I was accompanied by McCown, who had flown in from New York to show me around and, so it seemed, stage-manage my visit. Her presence made some of the teachers uncomfortable. "Why do you want to listen?" Alison Gray demanded when McCown asked to sit in on our interview.

"These issues are important to us," McCown responded. "It's helpful for us to know what's going on and to hear what people are saying. We want to be able to respond to some of these issues. This is not something we take lightly."

‘We want to be able to respond to some of these issues. This is not something we take lightly.’

Gaynor McCown,
Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications,
Edison Schools Inc.

Gray was unimpressed. "I just feel like these are old issues," she said, her voice filled with resignation. "We've been telling you these things for the last two years. If you want to stay, you're welcome to, but there's nothing really new." McCown stayed. Yvette Fagan, meanwhile, refused to talk at the school and met with me after classes at a nearby coffeehouse.

Kathy Fleming accused Edison of dragging its feet in order to "clean house." The offer, she said, was too little, too late. "If they really wanted us to stay, don't you think this would have happened a little bit faster?" she asked. "They want teachers who won't rock the boat. Plus, they save money if they have high turnover." (Not true, Chubb says. "Losing people is just murder on us.")

Such acrimony hasn't led to Edison's ouster from San Francisco—yet. At the school board's June 27 meeting, Jill Wynns introduced a resolution to terminate the company's contract. That failed, but the board approved a separate measure that essentially puts Edison on notice: If student achievement at the school does not improve, and if the teachers' concerns are not addressed, its charter will be revoked.

Christopher Whittle himself hardly seems fazed by the events in San Francisco. In his Press Club speech, he referred to the flap only once. "In San Francisco," he said in response to a question, "we have some discussions going on with the teachers in our school there. They believe that they've been working too hard in that site, and they are having a chat with us about that."

Edison Charter's new principal, Vincent Matthews, has his work cut out for him. When I spoke with him in mid-July, he was busy hiring new teachers to replace those who had resigned. "My goal," he said, "is to make this a positive place for both students and teachers." He was thrilled by the school's Stanford 9 test scores, which had been released the day before. The results, while still low, showed that Edison's students had made gains in nearly every subject and grade since they took the test last year. "The increases are phenomenal," Matthews said. "So we're very excited about that."

‘If they really wanted us to stay, don't you think this [offer] would have happened a little bit faster?’

Kathy Fleming,
former Edison Inc. teacher

By Kathy Fleming's count, 24 of Edison Charter's teachers, or about two-thirds, have decided to move on. (Matthews wouldn't say how many teachers were quitting, but he thought Fleming's tally would ultimately be too high.) Some, like Dina Deligiorgis and Fleming, are considering switching careers. Others, like Fagan and Gray, have taken jobs at conventional San Francisco public schools, even though their salaries will be lower.

"It was a hard decision not to return, because of the kids," Gray says. "But you have to choose between the kids and yourself. And after two years at Edison, I decided it was time to focus on myself." She's looking forward to her new job teaching 2nd grade at a San Francisco alternative school where her hours will be 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Fleming, a feisty Philadelphian who spent nine years teaching in that city's public schools before moving to San Francisco, is proud that the teachers stuck together, even though many knew they would not return in the fall. "We did it for the betterment of the school," she says, "and for the teachers who will be there in the future."

‘It was a hard decision not to return, because of the kids. But you have to choose between the kids and yourself. And after two years at Edison, I decided it was time to focus on myself.’

Alison Gray,
former Edison Inc. teacher

In the end, the teachers left the school with mixed emotions. On the last day of classes, about 15 packed up their belongings and made their way to Blondie's, a Mission District bar not far from the school. The teachers congregated on the patio, where they had a few drinks and hugged and cried. "It was bittersweet," Gray says. "Even though we were all leaving the school, we had accomplished a lot there, and we needed some sort of closure."

Slowly, it dawned on some of the other bar patrons—a typical San Francisco assortment of city workers and dot-commers and hipsters— that they were sharing happy hour with teachers—dedicated, hard-working teachers. And before long, the crowd was buying them rounds of drinks and offering heartfelt toasts.

"Here were these grown men and women telling us how much they appreciated us," Yvette Fagan recalls. "It was amazing. A great send-off. I walked out of there feeling elated. I was really proud to be a teacher, and I felt proud about the work we had done at Edison."

Vol. 12, Issue 1, Pages 44-50

Published in Print: August 1, 2000, as Punching Out
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