Monday, April 11, 2011
Do you suppose school board members ever went to school?
For every person who wants to teach there are approximately thirty people who don't want to learn--much. - W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, And Now All This (1932) introduction
You may have read recently that I've been watching local TV news from Austin, TX, via my slingbox here at home in Beautiful downtown El Aguacate. Lately, the news is full of a new and urgent financial crisis facing the Austin Independent School District (AISD). It seems like every school district of any size up there in Texas (and, I'm sure all the other states as well) gets into trouble once or twice every decade. Big, big financial trouble. And, they always act like it is a big surprise! No one saw it coming. No one predicted it, expected it, was prepared for it, can handle it.
Yet, they have these top heavy administrations – every damn one of them – and a big part of their administrations includes bookkeepers and accountants, and payroll, and folks like that. Yet, no one seems to be sharing information, or some damn thing. How could they not foresee a crisis? Long before a crisis becomes a crisis? Especially, when anyone who has ever been associated with a school district can tell you that there are no entities out there capable of wasting more money faster than a school district (OK, the federal and state governments do a pretty good job of this, too).
Speaking from personal experience (I was a school nurse for two years, and my wife is a retired classroom teacher) I can tell you that the amount of waste on any given day on any given public school campus is nothing short of disgraceful. The campus where I worked actually had a walk-in safe, just like a bank. This was an older building, so by extrapolation, I would surmise (or, I did some time ago) that it is not at all uncommon to find a walk-in safe on a public school campus. Do you know what was in that safe? Expensive items that were either stockpiled, or just too expensive to be left out where anyone could grab them. This was around 2003 – 2004, OK? Included in that safe were things like Sony digital cameras (the very best ones, but already obsolete), the campuses supply of walkie-talkies and chargers, cassette recorders, blank tapes, blank CD's, spare batteries, reams and reams of copy machine paper, spare ink cartridges for copy machines, and just tons and tons of things that nobody used, and that was mostly obsolete.
Now, this of course goes along with something else I noticed years earlier, in connection with my wife's classroom materials. The stuff that really gets used in a given classroom is usually the stuff that was purchased by the teacher her/himself. As far as I know, the districts still provide computers and equipment to classrooms, but you know what? If a working computer finds its way into a classroom, the odds are that it will not be accompanied by a working printer, or any kind of internet service/connection, or up to date software, or adequate hardware. Going back to the first computers we saw coming into the classroom, I clearly recall mostly Mac products, that were obsolete the day they arrived in the classroom, and that were never put to any use due to know one knowing how they operated, but also to the simple fact that a computer is no good without up to date software that can be routinely and periodically updated via the internet.
Something else, just as an example of campus waste that I recall was this: My wife's classroom was provided with a very new and fancy giant laser disc player. These first disc players were developed after the VHS and Betamax tape formats had already been in common use for some time. They featured discs that were even bigger than the old vinyl LPs for music, and they did provide for a much better quality video than any tape format. My wife's classroom also had a television monitor, on a very large, and complicated metal stand, with wheels. But, try as she might, she was never able to acquire a simple cable to connect that fancy movie player to the monitor, so despite the fact that she even had a couple of movies for showing in the classroom, her students never saw scene one.
I also clearly remember one year, just before the start of the school year, my wife asked me to help her set up the classroom, because that particular year she was to have something like half a dozen computers in the room, all to be put on one or two tables, so that they could be networked to one printer. What a sorry mess that was. There was no equipment provided for networking, some of the computers were MSDOS systems, some were MS Windows-based systems, and some were Apple products. But no two computers had the same operating system present, since even though there may have been more than one Windows PC, they each had different versions of Windows, at different stages of upgrade (that's right: Win 3x, Win95, Win98, and none of them with any updates since date of installation). And, of course, since the classroom had no connection to the internet there was no way to update any of the Operating systems, even if one had the time and patience to make the attempt.
This was what I saw in her classrooms each and every year – obsolete equipment that was never complete. She was lucky to have one working computer capable of being connected to the internet, in all the years that she taught. And, she usually had to bring that one home in order to connect to the 'net.
So, now we see on the Texas news that Dallas is offering a $10.000.00 cash incentive to any teachers who are willing to resign voluntarily, and then, a member of the school board in Austin suggested that Austin do the same thing. I listen to these idiots making these proposals, and I have to shake my head in wonder. If y'all are so hard up that you have to cut jobs, where the hell do you think you are going to get the money to payout that much money to those poor bastards that are stupid enough to accept your offer?! Meanwhile, of course, parents are protesting at every school board meeting, and on the streets in front of various schools, screaming "Don't close OUR school!" But, one has to ask, where were those parents before the school districts got in trouble? How many of them have even bothered to look into what was happening at any campus near them prior to this 'crisis?' How come they stay away from their District Board meetings in droves, and fail to watch what their Boards are doing? I'm just sayin'……….