Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Job as a Roller Coaster Ride - Sans the Puke

Thank you, for the accurate depiction!
I am not here to discuss how working at a school with low-income, high risk kids can be a crazy ride from day to day. I think I've covered that sufficiently with at least one entry per month mentioning that. lol No, what I'm about to tell you is the craziness that is working for a local public school system here in the OK. Fair warning, this will be a bit lengthy and has plenty of twists and turns. Hope you can keep up!
While I do not have the statistics on hand, let's just say that Oklahoma is ranked pretty stinkin' low compared to most of the states when it comes to funding the schools, paying our teachers, etc. So it came as no surprise that my employer had to reorganize their district to try and save money. Plans were discussed, town hall-esque meetings were held, and teachers and staff held their breath. The plans came out and the school I work for was safe. We were going to add another grade, but, we would be able to retain everyone. Phew!
But, unfortunately the feeling of relief did not last long. Soon we were told all support staff who was hired this past school year would be given non-renewal notices; the district cuts people according to time served as opposed to who the principal believes need to go. I get it, but, it does stink as I was one of those employees who received said notice. My principal reassured me this happens all the time, staff is told they're getting cut because Title 1 allotments are always changing. So, while I was nervous, I trusted my principal and everyone else's past experiences. My boss also reassured me if she couldn't get me back as a para, she would do everything in her power to get me back as a teacher's assistant.
THEN the last day of the school year comes and teachers are then told our school has to cut six 1/2 positions!!! The reason? The reorganization plan that was approved messed up the redistricting. Some students were going, some were staying, but, overall the numbers were HUGE mess. I was sad for the teachers, but, also even more worried about getting a new job. Fortunately, they were able to save positions because my school insisted that the lines were looked at closer to give a more accurate list of how many students we were going to have for 2011-2012. To add to the mess, however, there were calls about cutting the TAs who had been there for awhile. It's a good thing I don't bite my nails, because I wouldn't have any nails left!!
You think it's over right? Ohhhhhhhh no, no, no. The state legislature passed a bill that basically cut funding to public schools (mainly to primary education, naturally the universities of this state were left alone.). The district, who had just implemented a new program to save money, now faced cutbacks. So, the funding to special education programs were cut.* Forty para positions were part of the cuts. At this point, my chances of gainful employment with my school looked very dismal.
Fast forward to last night, my principal called me. I was teaching a piano lesson at the time, so, I had to call her back. I was nervous, and being me, I kept thinking it was bad news. I mean can you blame me in light of all the crap that has happened? After playing phone tag, and waiting nervously for over two hours, my principal and I talked. She has a teaching assistant position open and wanted to know if I would accept! I naturally said, 'HELL YES!' Ok so maybe I didn't say that specifically, but, I accepted. I know being a para has more clout, technically, but, with how things work at my school it would be essentially the same job. Bouncing from room to room helping in any way that I can.
I know, it's one crazy set up. I love my job as I do feel I am making a difference for children. However, by no means will I be doing this forever. I'm grateful though that I will have this experience to learn from and use for what I may do in the future. I am also grateful to have steady income and insurance!! It has been a crazy roller coaster ride working for the public school system this past school year and I think I could write a short book on my observations and thoughts about what I've seen this year. Here's to another school year, working hard to teach children who have to traverse the odds of their situation and to survive budget cuts.

*Don't get me started on how tricky this is legally and ethically. Blogspot would shut down with what I could say about this!!


Sarah said...

Wow. Just wow. I cannot imagine how bad it must have been for you and everyone else waiting all summer just to find out if you had a job in two months... but not wanting to find something else just in case! It's really ridiculous. At least I'm able to understand why teachers want their tenure!

Habebi said...

It's nuts isn't it?? I get the tenure thing too, though I don't think it should mean a get out of jail free card. Before my principal called me Jon and I were back and forth as to when would be a good time to look for a job; it was hard to decide for the very reasons you stated- I just didn't know when that good time would be. Thank goodness my principal called and I can have some peace of mind!

Clouds said...

whew, thank goodness you're alright! it sounds so stressful!