BLYTHE, Calif – Tuesday's Unified board meeting was crowded but not all seats were occupied. Fully half the attendees were teachers who gathered en-mass to object to what they see as a poor start to the new school year, and to register their dismay at the proposed salary schedule.
The district stands accused of not providing many of the basics necessary to the operation of the
schools: too many students in certain classes, no water in the portable classrooms, no shades in the portable classrooms, ceiling fan not functioning in lavatory, no textbooks, no assessments based on texts, and in general a lateness on the part of the district in a feeble attempt to ready the schools for both teachers and students.
Following comments, complaints, made by teachers to the board in the beginning of open session, the assembled teachers got up and walked out. Bad-faith issues on the part of the district included problems with credentialing, safety issues, insurance, and lack of consistency in salary payments to members of the CSEA. The PVTA will vote on September 9 and 10 on whether to "accept" or reject the latest proposal from the district. In short the district offers
the teachers a one percent raise and requires them to pay all future increases in insurance payments. The administrators have been very quiet about their settlement with the "district"; all we know is that they awarded themselves a much larger raise, a restructuring as they call it, and they suffer no additional out-of-pocket expenses related to fringe benefits. Members of the board have awarded themselves insurance coverage and if they serve a total of
twelve years or more, it becomes permanent.
We feel obligated to make a few comments here that should, we believe, be known to all. First, teachers have no "clout" because of their contract which gives the board the right to say "Take it or leave it." Many new teachers are "recruited" from the snow belt of the northern United States, and are lead to believe that living here in the southland is paradise on earth (none-the-less a fool's paradise). New administrators, who are always looking to advance
their careers, often as not come from other districts in California, home grown. The "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude often translates into simply leaving the district for many of the new hires; the paradiso refers only to the non-summer months. The board knows that the population drift is in this direction so why pay for an expected over-supply of teachers. The second problem has the district tied to a new holy book known as "the" text. This is a secular
new testament handed down from Mount Sacramento, a text that has received a blessing from the main tent in Washington, D.C. Simply, without the magic text, no education can take place because it, and it alone, prepares school children for the imagined state standards. The state has no base-line standards (for the CAT/6,) as Bill Walker, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, explained to us who remained in attendance. He didn't say that exactly,
but what kind of faith can anyone place in the statement, "The goal for all schools is that at least 50% of students will score at or above the national average." That means that the other 50% will be "left behind.” The state is looking for "...100% of students score at the proficient level or above" on the California Standard Test (CST). The word "proficient" means "advanced and masterful and expert,” but that's not what the state means when it uses the
word. The operative word is "level,” which as near as we can figure is just above failing, maybe a "C.” These ideas don't come from scientific nor religious thinking; they are hatched like eggs. Anyone can read all about it in our classic literature (Swift, Kafka), all about the lame-brained notions that sweep the education system every so often...and now it's time again.
The board won't and can't do anything about the shameful record of the schools, and it's not just here in Blythe. What is a board supposed to do with water that doesn't run, technology that's "down", text-dependent teachers who are grossly underpaid, paint yet to be applied, fans that won't spin, vandalism, ungrateful parents, and a state government that hasn't the slightest idea of how to tax itself so schools can receive proper funding. Last night,
Tuesday the seventh of September, the board told us what they do instead when it was their turn to establish credibility with the public, under the agenda heading "Board Member Reports.” They allowed for considerable discussion on improvements to the high school locker-room: 175,000 dollars were spent to replace the lighting, to paint walls and floors, to improve the air conditioning, and to install brand new lockers in BOTH boys and girls rooms. The board
seemed pleased by what they saw during a "walk-through,” a board's eye view of a job that desperately needed a public blessing of sorts. Something has to work according to plan. But wait just a minute here! We apparently have a glitch in how many shower heads are necessary; is any of that spigot water hot? we ask. We need another magic number and it's...it's...it's six. Yes! It's six. At the moment the shower rooms seem to have more than six. Now how in
heck did that ever happen?