Tuesday, March 14, 2006

School Colors

By the way, I found out that - because I have a blog and I attach my really real name to the things I say - I cannot teach in Georgia without fear of losing my job arbitrarily. Maybe this is only an Island City thing, but I'm onna raise some serious stink about it iffin' it is true. (I'm going to file that one under the the left getting shafted by political correctness.)

So back to the Coastal life: we have a problem in Glynn County, and it has to do with our schools. I know. Get your shocked faces on. We're actually discussing the results of the whole situation on the Glynn County Democratic Party website. It has to do with the color of teachers in our schools. Folks on our side have been called 'segregationists' because we would like to see more minority teachers in the schools. It doesn't look like it, but it has become a pretty big issue here on the Coast.

I'll give ya some background as to why:

It appears that there is a dearth of minority teachers in our school system. The numbers I have been presented say that only 15% of our school teachers are non-white of origin. Now, this percentage is abysmally low for almost any county in South Georgia. (As a side note, I also wonder about the percentage of male teachers to female teachers, as equally important.)

A part of this that isn't talked about much is that we have a shortage of teachers, period. This particular double edged sword really makes this debate kind of unique. It allows Glynn County to recruit and hire teachers based on percentage goals without having to worry about strict adherence to quotas. (Which, to my knowledge, we have never done.)

The other edge to that sword is that not enough teachers opt to come here and teach. I don't know why this is the case - maybe it has something to do with the big black cloud of being on probation from SACS for the last few years, or maybe the big, smelly factory that sits in the middle of town, or maybe it has something to do with kids like me going to school here back in the day. I don't know. The teachers we do have are (for the most part) really, really good, but we need more of them.

Now, in an effort to catch two squirrels with one bird feeder, the Glynn County School Board decided to hire some international teachers, (called the Visiting International Faculty, or VIF) so we'd have enough teachers, period. Several are from Jamaica and one is from Canada. I know several of them, and they are qualified and stand up folks. With the hiring of these cats, we got to import some needed quality teachers and we got to import some teachers not of the caucasian persuasion.

Sounds pretty win - win to me.

There were some growing pains, to be sure, usually involving grading (Jamaica and the US are on completely differnt systems) but those got worked out. Crisis averted, our hard working Board pressed onward, trying to get back neat things for our schools like SACS accreditation and school roofs that didn't leak.

But noooo, here comes Hackery and Jackassery, represented in this case by the two Hyper Republicans on the Glynn County School Board. I was at one of the School Board meetings where this stuff came up. I guess that these two thought they should make the VIF a big fat issue of divisiveness in Glynn County for no particular reason.

First of all, there was the cost. But when someone did some simple multiplication and found out the total cost was comparable to hiring 15 qualified domestic teachers, that one kind of goes away on its own.

Second, there was the idea that the contract had been done improperly. This confused some members of the School System (the non-elected education administration professionals) because usually, if you find some problems in the contract, you fix them - and quietly. But Hackery and Jackassery weren't interested in fixing a problem as much as they were in creating an issue out of a non-issue.

The third one was discussed most 'eloquently' when our new Superintendent recommended we keep the VIF with pretty high support from the non-elected education professionals. Said Hackery: "Something's not working right in our system that we cannot find and hire good (domestic) teachers ... This is a serious problem."

I wonder if he'd like pictures of exhibits A & B?


petallic said...

Board members, Board officials, Board workers of any kind - are idiots.

I have years of experience to back that one up - in two different counties and two different countries. In education, we promote people to the board office only when we want them out of the classroom due to incompetency (but we can't fire them because of contracts/tenure). This is an unfortunate truth in education.

I actually wrote the words, "The people at the board office are incompetent idiots" on a survey yesterday morning and turned it in; if they would like to question me about it, they know where to find me, and they won't like the tongue-lashing they receive when they do. Most of them up there steer clear of me, with good reason.

VIF is a tricky mistress, Pat. I worked for them in England for one year, and although their UK program went belly up the second year, it was a pretty decent experience for me. As to their US program, it seems to be a pretty well run ship, but yes, it can be expensive. It can also be economically advantageous for both the school and the employee. The school makes money by paying a lower wage for younger teachers who are willing to teach for less (and often in pretty shady circumstances) for the opportunity to travel, and the company makes money by also taking a percentage of their salary as a sort of finder's fee.

All in all, it's a pretty sweet deal...unless you're the young willing teacher being paid less money to teach in substandard situations. My year in England was the hardest year of my professional career, and that's saying a lot since I spent four years in Greene/Taliaferro Counties, two of the poorest in Georgia (when you exclude the richies out on Lake Oconee who attend a white flight private school). The schools willing to hire VIF teachers are often schools suffering from the same type problems as Glynn County. The pupils are only a symptom of larger problems: lack of proper administration, SACS worries, etc.

As to your worries of ethnic/gender diversity in the classroom, this is a luxury that it sounds like your county cannot afford. SACS accreditation should come first; recruiting good teachers should be part of that. Under proper administration, pupils will behave and learning will occur. Without, you have problems recruiting good teachers. "Good" really shouldn't have any sort of color attached to it, as far as I'm concerned.

I admire your goals, but they seem unrealistic considering the circumstances.

S.A.W.B. said...

Perhaps you guys have trouble recruiting teachers down to Glynnco because it is, in fact, East, of BF East.

Beyond that, you guys aren't the only district in the state that is hard up for teachers. In fact, I'm fairly certain that every county in the state has a shortage somewhere, usually in the math/science vein.

Perhaps if we were to take some of the obscene money per student,($10k/year seems to be a common number), that is being pissed away by local school boards on god knows what, and threw that at the teacher's salary pot instead, we might allay this shortage of classroom supervisors somewhat...

With regards to Nathaniel Greene Academy, which is the 'white flight private school' that Petallic referenced, there has been much discussion and consternation over that particular institution, and the general skin tone of it's attendees. If the folks down in G-T counties had the stones, they'd scrap the local Board of Ed., and start making lots of noise for a Charter school or three. That, or make some serious noise for vouchers for tuition to NGA...

petallic said...

So, Kathy Cox just left my classroom. Out of the blue, during a parent conference, in walks my principal with Mrs. Cox and her state entourage.

I showed her some student work, the technology I'm using in the classroom, and discussed the availability of SmartBoards. Unfortunately, I did not get to raise the subject of what's going on in Glynn County, and for that I should probably be summarily flogged.

Some days are strange.

S.A.W.B. said...

You had Kathy Cox in the classroom and didn't pull a General Loan? For shame...

petallic said...

Sorry SAWB, I was too shocked for cogent reasoning.

patsbrother said...

Yo, what the deuce does "pull a General Loan" mean?

patsbrother said...

And beyond that, the Georgia Secretary of Education has an entourage? What for? It's a safe bet there will be No. 2 pencils wherever she goes.

S.A.W.B. said...

If only there were some sort of magic box where one could input questions and recieve answers, almost instantaneously. Perhaps we can give it a name...something snappy...like...million...or, billion...


petallic said...

I'm not sure why she needs an entourage, but she had several prepubescent-looking but very official people with her. They looked like something straight off a Young Republicans ad.