This editorial comes to us from my underground DeSoto Educational Consortium, as I call them. It was written by educators in Desoto County and from their perspective. For obvious reasons, their identities will remain anonymous.
School has been in session a little over 6 weeks so it is now time for The State of the School System address. We will start at the top and work our way to the bottom.
1. The students. Students are given homework assignments impossible to complete and they along with their parents are very frustrated. In class assignments are not much better. One child reported in math class they were grouped for math assignments and must come to a consensus. They only turn in one assignment per group and if it is wrong the entire group gets an F. If this prepares you for life then I will get a group together of like minded adults and see if we can reach a consensus there is a million dollars in my bank account and present it to the bank Monday morning. Hopefully my bank is a common core bank. The students have still not been assigned lockers in most middle and high schools and the amount of books and supplies some of them must carry are about to kill them. One 90-pound cheerleader is carrying all of her books, uniforms, and shoes around all day. Her bag weighs more than she does. I guess you might say, “At least they have books!” In a lot of the schools books are a thing of the past.
2. The Parents. Frustration of not having books to help with assignments, not knowing what the child’s grade is and the lack of consistency in the instruction their child is receiving. Inability to get a conference with the teacher and administration and if they do get a conference they are shocked at how little the professionals know about the instruction the students are getting. Parents are not happy with what they call a mere sales pitch for common core instead of an actual, clear and concise explanation of the standards and corresponding curriculum. Finding out that a new phonics program was adopted this year, yet teachers received NO training on it before school started has led to even more frustration and lack of trust in the district.
3. The teachers. This is the worst. They are struggling with a haphazard curriculum that has already undergone 200-400 pages of corrections. The have huge notebooks they are unable to carry back and forth to school and they are also required to insert the hundreds of pages of corrections and remove the incorrect pages that come to them periodically. One group of teachers was so frustrated they asked for someone from the Central Office to come help only to be told when she arrived that she wasn’t familiar with common core. If she’s not, who is? The teachers in the elementary school are spending all day in the hall to complete benchmark testing for individual students. We had a program that would test all students on the computer at one time but someone in the central office had a friend selling Fountas and Pinnell so of course we had to buy that. Now the teachers spend up to 45 minutes testing one child. The assistants must teach the poor excuse of a curriculum while the teacher tests every child individually. This testing happens 3 times a year. Wonder whose bright idea that was? Test scores were recently released to the public and the Central Office has been busy working to spin this news in their favor instead of the teacher’s favor where it belongs. Unfortunately they overlook the fact of why the math scores they brag so much about were the highest they have been in several years. They are praising the curriculum but fail to mention the very instruction used to get us to this point has now been tossed out the window. It was replaced this year with a homemade curriculum that is frustrating the teachers students and administrators. Hopefully we have someone in the central office helping to write a new standardized test for our students to take that will make it look as if the students are making gains. As luck would have it WE DO! How can it fail when the premise is not getting the answer right but showing your work and thinking outside the box? Any answer will work! Isn’t it amazing how this all falls into place?
4. The Support staff. Assistants are frustrated because the teacher spends so much time out of the room testing children. The bookkeepers are overwhelmed with new programs they have to learn and the amount of supplies they must order for common core. Once you order items you pray that the vendor hasn’t gotten their monthly limit of orders for the county. If that happens the bookkeeper must wait a month and resubmit. The Clerks have now taken on the counselor’s jobs of registering and placing students in a classroom. They have 3 programs they must use for each child. One to get a number, one to scan the documents and one to submit data. They have so much overtime (which is paid in days off instead of money) they have been warned they cannot get anymore. Can they hire more people in the schools where they actually need more people? NO they are only hiring at the Central Office. You can get your applications at the church or the Win Job Center as many people are now referring to a certain church where a lot of its members are employed by DeSoto County Schools. There is even a person at the Central Office with the job title of “call coordinator.” Don’t get this job confused with the receptionist who answers the phone and works the front desk. This person only coordinates calls for one department. We also have a videographer and it is only a matter of time before we will have a decorator. At the rate the county office is expanding there may be a need for crowd control. They could probably use the same people with guns who attend every board meeting now to insure you do not disrupt their meetings by asking questions.
5. The Principals. Principals with enough years are looking to retirement. The title principals are trying to adjust to the loss of their Title I funds to the Central Office. All of the administrators are tired of teachers asking questions they cannot answer because they feel like they are failing the staff. They are tired of implementing a curriculum that does not make sense and changes on a daily basis. They have no control of their buildings anymore. The same person controlling the superintendent is controlling every move and every decision they make. With all the new programs purchased, their workload has more than tripled at the school level. When they ask for help at their schools, they hire someone else for the central office. (Where is that office person the county took from them in 2010 for budget cuts?) Those that can’t retire are hoping their experience will get them a transfer to another district or state.
6. The Central office. There is only one sentence to describe what is happening there. The worker bees are working while the Queen Bee is often seen in her bathrobe eating her Chester chicken. But don’t let that fool you. She is busy plotting with undercover work forces. It takes a lot of time to control the masses in DeSoto County and nothing gets past her…..she thinks.
Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. This article would not be possible with out the help of the insiders whose numbers are growing daily. Thank you for your letters, phone calls and private messages. DeSoto County Reform is here for you and will always keep your contributions confidential. We could not do this without you.