Being Marsha Sutton

It must be exhausting to be Marsha Sutton. Here it is May 2017, and she is still upset about Rick Schmitt’s salary.

At the time, his SDUHSD salary was $238,329, which was set to go up to $248,347 on July 1. At San Ramon, where he started his employment on July 1, his contracted starting salary was $309,664.

“At the time” was June 2016, nearly a year ago. Rick Schmitt doesn’t even work for SDUHSD any more, and she spends half of her column about him and his salary?

This $6.5 million expense for salaries and benefits across the board will continue each subsequent year. (These figures, however, do not take into account the number of highly paid veteran employees who are retiring.)

“All those highly-paid veteran teachers, with their free apples and all!”

No one would have objected to a reasonable contracted salary increase.

I call bullshit. I think Marsha Sutton would have objected to any settlement with the teacher’s association that didn’t result in teachers being flogged in public.

Schmitt said the district has a history of being fiscally conservative, and that there is money to pay for these raises well into the future, based on healthy reserves, conservative assumptions and realistically rosy projections.

Even if all that is true, which is suspect, did the raises need to be so high, at 12.5 percent?

“Here is someone who knows what they are talking about. But even if they do, I’m going to ignore it. Why do raises need to be so high? Oh, you just explained that? Wait, where am I?”

Assuming scads of cash were just lying around, as Schmitt claimed, could at least some of it have been spent on hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes? More security? The arts? Relieving parents of the pressure to donate to foundations to fund classroom essentials?

Given the tragedy at Torrey Pines High School last week, how about additional counselors?

Did you REALLY just suggest that raises for teachers (“scads of cash”) led, even indirectly, to a 15-year-old’s suicide? Fuck you. I’m done being clever here. Marsha, go get some help, and let the professionals in school districts do what they do best. And you go do whatever it is you do best. I don’t know what that is, but it has nothing to do with writing or education.

On Boards and Bullshit

From Parents urge SDUHSD Board to hire a superintendent to revamp special education:

Board member John Salazar recommended that a permanent hiring not take place until after the November election so that if a new board member is elected, that person could have input in the selection process because the incoming board member person would have to work with the new superintendent. (Two board positions will be up for election this November — that of Board member Joyce Dalessandro and Board president Beth Hergesheimer).

This is exactly the same “reasoning” used by Senate Republicans who are refusing to even consider filling the open seat on the Supreme Court until President Obama’s term in office is over. They hope that a Republican will be elected, and then they can appoint some right-wing activist judge to the court. It’s pure, naked politics without a hint of a rational justification. It’s bullshit when Senate Republicans do it, and it’s bullshit when John Salazar does it.

Notice that Salazar’s seat is not up for election in November. He is hoping that either one or both of the seats available will go to (a) someone ideologically motivated like him or (b) someone easily influenced like Muir. If that’s the case, then the San Dieguito school board, which has been a model of effective advocacy for students and education for over twenty years, will devolve into a partisan political shitshow that is more interested in destroying public education and public employee unions than in providing a first-class education for students. And at the center of it will be John Salazar and his hand-picked superintendent.

Just Write

I had a conversation with a teacher today about blogging. She was telling me about this great strategy she has used in Google Classroom to respond to individual students as well as the whole class. I told her she should share her idea on a blog, because other teachers might want to use it. She was hesitant, because she wasn’t sure that her idea was perfect yet, and she didn’t know the right tone or approach to take in a b4439906837log post, or what if nobody reads it… I interrupted her.

“Just write,” I said.

A blog is just the place to practice, and practice is the only way to get better at writing. After a while, you’ll find your style and your voice. And then you’ll change it. And change it again.

Just write.

I have no idea what I’m doing in this blog. Look at the tags; look at the previous posts. They’re all over the place. Some of them are fit for professional consumption. Some of them probably alienated readers because of my profanity or politics. So what?

Just write.

My friend Bjorn writes beautifully. Some of his blog posts have brought me to tears. I’m never going to be Bjorn or write like he does, but I don’t have to. I really have no idea whether anyone is reading this blog, but it doesn’t really matter to me. I write for myself. I write to get ideas out, and to share things that I think are cool, or infuriating, or important. I can’t control my audience or lack thereof.

Just write.

I’m going to share this post with the teacher I mentioned above, and she may respond with “Well, that’s not exactly how our conversation went this morning.” Doesn’t matter. It’s my blog. No one else will never know any different, because that’s what I’ve written.

Just write.


Student Teaching

A conversation on Twitter this morning caused me to remember back to my two master teachers when I was student teaching. Both were exceptional, for completely different reasons. One was a model for me in how to teach physics; the other was a object lesson in how not to be a good person, colleague, teacher, or scientist.

I’ll call him “Pat” (not his real name). Pat was a basketball coach who needed some place to teach, so he was assigned to the science department. I was assigned to student teach two sections of 9th-grade Physical Science with him, as one of the only options in the department, for scheduling reasons. One of the first times I saw Pat’s personality was on Back-to-School-Night, when he informed the parents how “he” was chosen to be a master teacher because of how expert “he” was. Not a word about me, just lies about my placement. OK, whatever.

Pat had trouble with basic science because he was a creationist. (Or maybe he was a creationist because he had trouble with basic science.) I heard him tell his class that the Earth had to be created just the way it is today, because the planet wouldn’t spin right if all the continents were grouped together. This is both geologically and physically wrong and actually pretty hilarious when you think about it. He also got Newton’s Third Law wrong, telling the students that the Earth applies more force on the Moon than vice-versa because the Earth is bigger. I could not let that one pass; I had to correct him on that after class was over. I don’t think he believed me, but he didn’t say much.

In that way, I was lucky. A few weeks later, Pat confronted the journalism teacher over an article critical of him that had run in the student newspaper. (I had been friends with the journalism teacher before ever getting in to teaching; she was a big reason I requested this school in the first place.) Pat explained to the journalism teacher that students were not allowed to criticize teachers in the newspaper.  She disputed his interpretation of students’ rights under the First Amendment, in a quiet and professional way. I chimed in on her side, again calmly and professionally. I honestly don’t remember exactly what I said, but I certainly remember the dressing down I got from Pat afterwards: “I do NOT appreciate you contradicting me in front of other teachers.” Wow. Who says that? Who thinks like that?

It is pretty standard for student teachers to begin by conducting their master teachers’ lessons as-is, and then over the semester, take on more responsibility for planning, to the point that they are pretty much independent by the end of the term. Pat would have none of that. I was not allowed to modify any part of any lesson, or even rearrange the sequence of activities. I had to do everything his way, exactly as he did. Fortunately, my university supervisor recognized Pat for what he was. She let me know that she understood the situation I was in, that I just had to get through it, and she helped me to reflect on what I would do differently when I had my own classroom. At the same time, I was having a great experience in my other teacher’s classes, learning what I was supposed to, and being supported fully along the way.

A few years later, after I had been hired at La Costa Canyon and had been teaching for a while, I was talking with the LCC basketball coach at a staff happy hour. Pat’s name got brought up, and our coach knew him, of course. I told him, “Pat must have been a great basketball coach because he was such a lousy teacher.” Our coach replied, “I always thought he must be a great teacher because he was such a lousy basketball coach!”