Friday, March 26 - Budgets, Damn Budgets

It's been an interesting month.  I've attended three Board of Education meetings in the last three weeks, all of them dealing with our school budget. 

Due to major cuts in state financial aid, our BoE had to come up with $2.5M in cuts.  Half of that was a surprise and they had less than 28 hours to come up with sufficient cuts to make up the difference. 

My job could be in jeopardy, but thus far I am safe.  Some of the cuts that were made are still being reviewed and of course, if they should be reinstated, the money will have to come from elsewhere. 

I won't go into much more detail other than to say that the Governor of New Jersey and the State Commissioner of Education are very good at putting out propaganda.  I dare say that they've not had very good teachers of their own otherwise they would realize that their math skills are sadly lacking.  Not to mention the failure to give accurate and complete information to the public.

The final budget hearing is this Wednesday night and I will know definitively at that point if I will still be employed after this contract year.

What scares me though is one of the cuts that they've already made.  They've cut the copy clerk.  Yes, our district has a centralized copy center that our teachers send their copywork to.  The clerk takes care of the copywork for our four schools.  Our individual school copiers are supposed to be used for emergency purposes only.  I repeat "supposed" to be. 

The plan is that they will send the two big copiers to the two biggest schools, and the two smaller schools, one of which is the one I work in, will be using their own machines. 

I asked my principal who exactly would be doing this copywork and he said that he would have the teachers do their own.  This is the plan for the district.

Now here is why I'm scared.  I have a lot of respect for teachers, but sometimes I find that they do not necessarily make the best students.  Especially when the job is out of their comfort zone or expertise.  They will have to be "trained" in the proper use of the copy machine.  This will be easy for some and beyond the dignity of others. 

When I first started working in this office there was a copier in the faculty room for the teachers.  At one point someone came into the office and said it wasn't working.  They had been trying to make an overhead and the overheads just kept disappearing in the machine.  So they gave up and came to ask us to make one on the office copier.  Upon inspection of the faculty copier, it would no longer make copies of any kind so the service tech had to be called.  When he brought up the hunk of plastic that was found inside the machine we could only joke that someone had been trying to make jewelry in the copier. 

Now there will be terms like "collated" and "uncollated", "double-sided from double-sided" and "double-sided from single-sided",  "sorted"or "stacked".  These terms, while simple in theory need you to really think through the job.  And yes, they have had to indicate some of these on the forms that they are now sending to the copy center, but the trick now will be to actually match it up with the function of the machine.

I am scared because some of them are having difficulty operating a coffee pot without making a mess and now they'll be expected to operate a machine worth thousands of dollars. 

Do you think I'm worrying for nothing?  How long before this becomes part of my job?

Friday, March 19 - Messages for the Principal

File this under "Things I Never Thought I Would Have to Write in a Message to My Principal":

Mr. Smith sent Joseph to the office because Joseph grabbed Henry by the breasts and twisted them.

Friday, March 12 - K-Cups

We got a new coffee pot for the staff to use.  It's one of the Keurig pots and we basically got the pot for free from the supplier and each teacher orders their own box of K-cups that they keep in their room and brew when they want.  I sent out a brief e-mail to the staff with some guidelines regarding the use of the coffee pot, including not leaving the water chamber empty for the next person, clean-up, etc.  The "goodwill" that this new machine brought lasted about one day. 

"Someone's not throwing their K-cup away when they're done" I was told.  (So you take it out and throw it away when you throw yours away.)

"They're going to burn out the heating element if they don't put water in" was another comment.  (The machine is programmed not to let that happen.  If it breaks, we'll call the company." 

"We need a garbage can near the coffee pot so we remember to throw away the K-cups."  (The garbage can is 20 feet away.  Why should the custodian have to empty a wastebasket into a garbage can in the same room?)

I wonder what a teacher in their classroom would do if they put a new, let's see.........., a new electric pencil sharpener in their room and they started getting complaints like.....

"Tommy's point broke off his pencil in the sharpener and he left it there." 

"Cindy didn't empty the sharpener when she was done.  She said the garbage can was too far away."

I think they'd get tired of these complaints really fast.

And so did I.

So here is the e-mail I sent to the staff in an effort to keep it humorous:

Subject:  K-Cups

No, this is not the start of some dirty joke – however, I’ve been “notified” (several times) that someone is leaving their K-Cups in the coffee pot for the next person to throw away. Since you can bring in your K-Cups from home if you have them, I’m sharing this with everyone and not pointing any fingers.

This is new and I’m sure we’ll all get better at it.

You know I really don’t want to have to be the “Coffee Police” because then I’d also have to remind you to fill the water reservoir up when it gets low and don’t leave that for the next person to do.

Okay, done now. Have a great day!!!

Coffee anyone?

Friday, February 26 - Multi-tasking

Bits and pieces of conversations filter across my desk usually when I’m multi-tasking. By multi-tasking I mean answering the phone, pushing the doorbell to let someone in, and possibly also writing out a late pass all at the same time. First thing in the morning and the last half hour before the end of school are the busiest times closely followed by lunch times.

People come and go on a regular basis and it just amazes me what parents are willing to do for their kids today. I think we enable them by letting them use the telephone. I know when I was in school (we’re talking the 60’s and early 70’s), you wouldn’t think to ask to use the phone to call home for something you might have forgotten. Sure, if you got sick, or injured, or had some kind of “accident” the school nurse might reach out to your parents, but there were no phone calls made by students.

Even when my kids were in school (and they’re not yet into their 30’s), the phone was to be used for emergencies only. Not these days. At least not in our school. The students are allowed to call home for just about anything. And they do.

This is why I was extremely annoyed, disturbed, pissed off, last week when we had an emergency early dismissal due to snow and I got reamed out by a parent for not letting her child use the phone in the office.

That day was a continual “multi-tasking” day as the phones hardly stopped ringing and there were drop-in parents that came to pick up their children. I’m surprised I even got to eat most of my lunch.

But rather than vent anymore about that, here is a snippet of a conversation that went on in the office while I was busy with something else –

“Are you into French and Nazi’s?”

Hmmm, maybe I’m glad I missed that one.